All faith communities call for public worship to be allowed if Level 3 introduced next week
Move is important as pandemic crisis will continue well into 2021, says archbishop
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin says that ‘while the Government seems to be showing an openness to move towards a modified Level 3, much will depend on what the situation is like at the beginning of December’. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Christmas 2020 will be “a very different Christmas to anything we have experienced” and “even with the promise of more rapid access to vaccines, there is no doubt that the pandemic crisis will continue well into the coming year”, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
“This makes our demands for reopening of churches for public worship more important, not just for ourselves but for society,” he said.
He recalled the recent Zoom meeting between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and representatives of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, as well as Humanists, about challenges experienced by religious bodies during the current Level 5 lockdown and expectations for the coming months.
“There was unanimous agreement on the part of all the faith representatives that if there is a return to Level 3 at the beginning of December, then there should be a rethink on the place of public worship in Level 3 provisions. The Taoiseach recognised that unanimity,” the archbishop said.
Mr Martin had expressed his awareness “of how the current lockdown is affecting all faiths” and “recognised that for believers participation in public worship is central”.
The Taoiseach had “stressed the enormous effort made by churches to ensure that church buildings were safe places for worship during the pandemic” and had shown an openness to “ a re-examination the place of public worship at Level 3. Definitive answers, he noted, will depend on Government,” recalled the archbishop.
Mr Martin had also noted “that the public health authorities continually express their anxiety about large gatherings, but that they distinguish between controlled gatherings and spontaneous uncontrolled gatherings”.
It was the case, however, the archbishop said, that “while the Government seems to be showing an openness to move towards a modified Level 3, much will depend on what the situation is like at the beginning of December. In a number of countries where there had been considerable progress in curbing the virus, there has been a frightening return to very high infection levels as soon as restrictions were loosened.”
The archbishop himself had told the Taoiseach “how important Advent church collections are for the work of our charities”. It was also the case that “we have to use Advent to prepare for how we will celebrate Christmas, both liturgically and through our care services.
“Can we find ways of spreading attendance at Mass over a longer period than just Christmas night and Christmas Day? How can we organise more Masses at Christmas, while managing necessary levels of hygiene and sanitising? How do we reach out to people who will be lonely at Christmas? Many people living alone may not be able to travel to relatives,” he said.