Easter liturgies move online in response to Covid-19 restrictions

As hundreds of priests cocoon, crisis turns liturgical ceremonies into closed-door events

Easter liturgies will take place behind closed doors across Ireland as the coronavirus disrupts the most important week in the Christian calendar. It has transformed these most significant religious ceremonies into online events with at most 10 people attending in places of worship.

With an ageing clergy, the Dublin Catholic archdiocese has almost 200 priests unavailable as they are over 70 and cocooning. In the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin 58 priests are cocooning, with 47 in active ministry. In Killaloe diocese 44 of its 93 priests are in active ministry with 49 cocooned.

Webcam daily and weekend Masses from most parishes across the island continue this week with viewing figures greatly increased.

In Dublin 70 Catholic churches are streaming religious services online. Where there is no webcam priests and parishioners are being directed to RTÉ for services which are being broadcast up to and including Easter Sunday.


Dublindiocese.ie and churchservices.tv list Catholic churches where broadcasts are available in Dublin and across the country.

A Good Friday solemn liturgy will be broadcast on RTÉ 1 from 3pm to 4pm on Friday from Mullingar's Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King with Fr Derek Darby.

The broadcaster will also show the Easter vigil Mass at 10pm from Mullingar, while on Sunday, a Eurovision Mass from the Dominican Convent of St Jacques in Paris will be shown at 10am with translation by Fr Thomas McCarthy on RTÉ 1 and on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.

The station will broadcast Pope Francis’s Easter message of “prayer and encouragement” at 11am.

Ceremonies in local parishes will be streamed from almost completely empty churches with none of the ceremonial procession or passion of the Cross usually associated with Holy Week.

A Dublin diocesan spokeswoman said there can be up to 10 people in a church which could include a reader, a cantor, as well as the priest at the ceremony as long as they adhere to social-distancing requirements. Some churches will provide music from people who live in the locality. Parishes across the country have received prayer and liturgical resources to adapt for Easter.

At the Church of Ireland Christ Church in Dublin the only people physically at Holy Week and Easter services will be Archbishop Michael Jackson, Dean Dermot Dunne, Dean’s Vicar Abigail Sines, and Archdeacon of Dublin David Pierpoint.

The congregation will be online at christchurchcathedral.ie/worship/video-stream-1/.

Similarly services at St Patrick's Cathedral will be available at stpatrickscathedral.ie/worship/video-stream/.

Crosses in windows

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross Paul Colton has invited people to place a cross in their window to mark Holy Week and Easter. “The cross could be simple and fairly plain, made of paper, card, wood – you can be as imaginative as you like. Then, when Easter comes you may like to decorate it with colours, flowers, etc, as a sign of our trust in the joy of the resurrection,” he said.

Catholic Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy in an Easter message said the promise of Easter "can be a signal of hope in the dark days we occupy today as a nation". While churches are closed, "the church" is very much open, said Bishop Leahy and will mark death moving into life, darkness into light, despair into hope, woundedness into healing and division into reconciliation.

In an ecumenical initiative all churches in the Limerick diocese, including Church of Ireland buildings, will turn on their lights on Holy Saturday when the paschal candle is lit in the cathedral and will burn throughout the night. Bells will ring at 10pm.

“The Easter alleluia can be announced even when we are shrouded in darkness and difficulties because of the Covid-19 crisis,” the bishop added.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times