‘Proper protocols will be kept’
Two more bishops have said they are preparing to hold communions and confirmations in defiance of public health advice.
Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan said their dioceses will soon begin offering the sacraments to children.
Their comments follow Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran announcing his diocese will hold the ceremonies as “the mission of the church cannot be put on hold indefinitely”.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin criticised the bishops for defying public health guidelines. He said he does not approve of “any unilateral breaching of regulations, no matter what quarter they come from”.
“I’d say to the church authorities that the Government’s only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people and to protect people’s health,” he said.
“That is our only motivation and I think that should be accepted in good faith.”
However, Bishop Duffy has now announced he has instructed that the sacraments are to be held in his diocese.
In a statement, the Diocese of Clogher said: “In line with the recent communication from the Irish Episcopal Conference to the Government, Bishop Larry Duffy has decided that celebration of the sacraments of confirmation and first holy communion may take place in the ROI parishes of the Diocese of Clogher on or after Friday, August 20.
“The appropriate protocols presently in place in our churches will be maintained, and families are reminded of the need for adherence to public health guidance in relation to social interactions following the church celebration.
“As with the practice last year, these liturgies will take place with small groups of children where attendance is restricted to the child, the parents/guardians and sponsor.
“The celebration of first holy communion and confirmation has been completed already in the parishes situated in the northern part of our diocese, with full adherence to public health protocols.”
Representatives from Northern Irish dioceses also wrote to the Irish Independent to say they had successfully held confirmations and communions recently.
Meanwhile, Bishop Cullinan said the “sacraments are vitally important” and so is “one’s physical health”.
“As a bishop, I must take both into consideration, spiritual health and physical health,” he said.
He added that he has seen “large crowds congregating at all kinds of venues” in his diocese, including at sports events.
“I can see no valid reason for the further postponement of the sacraments for our children,” he said.
“The communication from the Government and from Nphet regarding the sacraments leaves a great deal to be desired.
“We are all conscious of the need to remain vigilant.”
Damian White, president of the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), said the issue is a “discussion between the church and Nphet” and not something for his union to get involved in.
“I think what he’s looking for is to stay within the guidelines and hold ceremonies for people who want to partake, where there are no school choirs or pageantry around it. And it would be a matter for a teacher if they chose to turn up in their own private capacity,” he said.
However, Mr White repeated that schools are “bound by the regulations set out by Nphet”.
Roscommon councillor Valerie Byrne said people in the community felt it had been “unfair” that children had grown out of confirmation and communion clothes and still the children had not received their sacraments.
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