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Heartbreaking farewells and desolate funerals deepen the trauma for families - bishop

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Concern: Bishop Brendan Leahy warned of ‘extra layer of suffering’

Concern: Bishop Brendan Leahy warned of ‘extra layer of suffering’

Concern: Bishop Brendan Leahy warned of ‘extra layer of suffering’

A catholic bishop expressed his distress over bereaved families who face "desolate funerals" and "heartbreaking farewells" due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In comments made at the end of Palm Sunday Mass at St John's Cathedral in Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy said the crisis had imposed "an extra layer of suffering" on the bereaved and on those accompanying the seriously ill.

Dr Leahy said in the coming weeks, not only are the numbers of deaths set to rise, but issues around being with loved ones at the time of death as well as the restrictions on funerals will deepen the trauma.

He highlighted how some close relatives will not be able to be by their loved ones' side and accompany them in their final moments.

"Well over one hundred have now died, many are struggling for life, and we know that thousands more are infected."

Dr Leahy added that "very worryingly" all the indications are that Ireland is entering the peak period. "Behind those statistics will be devastation for families and friends of those who pass on," he warned.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin also expressed solidarity with those who have been bereaved and have had to return to isolation after a burial as part of the efforts to stem the spread of the virus.

In a special message for Holy Week, Dr Martin said he was thinking of the fear and the anxiety of the elderly and the lonely. "We tend to forget that there are many elderly in our communities who may have no close relative. We have to seek out and reach out to such people," he said as he admitted that priests also "share in the fears and anxieties of the moment and deserve our support".

He issued his statement from his home where the Archbishop, who turns 75 on Wednesday, is cocooning.

He said the Archdiocese of Dublin, the country's largest diocese, has more than 200 priests over the age of 70 who are in isolation and acknowledged that this was placing "a great strain on those who remain active in ministry".

Referring to the fact that Holy Week liturgies, the highpoint of the Christian calendar, will this year be celebrated behind closed doors due to the pandemic, the Archbishop said it would be the first time in his entire ministry that he would have to participate in these ceremonies from home.

"I share in the sadness not just of priests but of most Catholics who experience the same void in their spirituality."

He said small gestures of practical kindness are now just as important as the vital major decisions.

Irish Independent