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Priest ordered by gardaí to stop Holy Communion warns of mental health cost

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A priest ordered by gardaí to stop allowing people come to his Dublin church to receive Holy Communion has said depriving parishioners of the Eucharist could have a mental health cost.

Fr Binoy Matthew, a parish priest in west Dublin, said he ceased administering Holy Communion to up to 150 parishioners at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Huntstown after Garda intervention.

Speaking to Independent.ie, the Divine Word missionary explained he had given communion to parishioners every week after online mass throughout the pandemic until asked to call a halt by the Gardaí.

They spoke to the priest following a road traffic accident outside Fr Matthew’s church in Blanchardstown three weeks ago, which brought the fire and ambulance services to the scene.

According to Fr Matthew, anyone receiving communion adhered strictly to sanitising and social distancing protocols and came to the church over a two-hour period. “They came through the main body of the church, received communion, and left through a side exit. There was no congregating,” he said.

“It was a way for us to stay in contact with our parishioners and offer them spiritual support.

“It is not as if the whole world was coming to us – it was a small group of people who carried out the correct sanitising and protocols. They didn’t stay in the church for prayers or gather in groups.”

He said gardaí told them they we were in breach of Covid protocols “so we decided not to continue.”

A garda spokesperson said they became aware of “an event involving organised activity taking place in a church” and engaged with the relevant people.

“This organised activity is no longer taking place,” he said.

According to Fr Matthew, Covid restrictions look likely to be in place until after Easter, and so there will be no possibility for parish communities to publicly celebrate Easter ceremonies and even if the country goes to Level 3, public worship will still not be permitted.

“You hear a lot about the mental health cost. This was something for a small group of people for whom receiving communion meant a lot. Every group is trying in some way to keep in contact with their core community – to care and look after them. We were trying to help our core group.

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“You can have over a hundred people in a small supermarket or congregating in a queue for a takeaway coffee. But you cannot allow people to come individually to their parish to receive communion. It seems this is what the Government wants,” he said.


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