Catholic bishops in the Republic of Ireland have once again urged the Government to resume public worship, warning that the easing of such restrictions “must not be subordinated to powerful commercial interests”.
Their calls come as a blanket ban on public worship has been in place throughout the Republic of Ireland for almost a year.
However, while churches are deemed too dangerous to open their doors, even to masked and distanced worshippers, supermarkets and hardware stores remain open with precautions in place.
The ban, which was only lifted for a short period over Christmas, has resulted in priests being fined for celebrating Sunday Mass.
Fr PJ Hughes, parish priest of Mullahoran and Loughduff in Co Cavan, faced a fine of €500 after celebrating a Sunday Mass for 20 people on 7th March.
Police mounted a major operation to block access to his Church including the use of cars, vans and roadblocks.
The priest said that he had felt “intimidated” by the activity and expressed concern for the mental and spiritual welfare of his rural parish community.
Public worship is currently allowed and deemed safe in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so long as churches adhere to strict Covid-19 measures, including regular cleaning, the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
Many Catholics celebrated Easter Masses in churches across the four UK nations this past weekend with others taking part online. However, in the Republic, bishops and clergy were forced to celebrate their second Easter behind closed doors exclusively to virtual congregations via online streams.
The ongoing blanket ban has led to numerous calls to resume public worship from bishops, clergy, lay Catholics and leaders and worshippers from other faiths.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, has been particularly outspoken on the issue. In his Easter homily, he said Catholics, as citizens, “assert that the right to public worship must be respected and not restricted for any longer than is absolutely necessary”.
It came only days after he pledged to “continue to emphasise to Government the importance of the earliest possible return to the public worship, and that the easing of restrictions must not be subordinated to powerful commercial interests, even those considered ‘non-essential’.”
The Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, also called for a proper consideration for public worship, saying that he felt “the spiritual well-being of our people has not been given any serious attention by the authorities”.
He said Catholics are “growing increasingly weary of being unable to attend Mass” and warned that “spiritual and mental wellbeing is being eroded”.
“Their patience is wearing thin. They are frustrated and feel unrepresented and discriminated against.”
Picture: A woman participating in a Rosary rally carries a sign near a statue of Mary outside the cathedral in Galway, Ireland. She was seeking the return of public Mass during the Covid-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters).