Archbishop hopes vaccine rollout spells end of ‘very long Lent’

Dublin Archbishop says pandemic lockdown has stretched Lent from 40 days to 400 days

Archbishop Eamon Martin also said the Church’s position on same-sex unions was clear, that it could not bless them. File photograph: The Irish Times

Archbishop Eamon Martin also said the Church’s position on same-sex unions was clear, that it could not bless them. File photograph: The Irish Times


The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has said he prays the vaccine rollout will spark the end of a “very long Lent”.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell said Easter was a time of hope and new life, which could be seen now with the continuation of the vaccination programme.

“When I was a young fella I thought of Lent being 40 days and I thought it was an eternity, but the Lent we have had now is almost 400 days and we are actually still counting,” he told RTÉ One’s Today programme.

In an interview for Good Friday, he paid tribute to the people who had put up with great sickness and prayed for the “continued commitment and stamina of healthcare workers who have been at the coalface” and for others working in frontline jobs. He also prayed for a “change of heart in all those who have not yet joined in the solidarity to fight the coronavirus”.

The archbishop added he was “constantly” receiving correspondence from people asking for the churches to reopen.

The Catholic Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said church leaders had hoped people of faith would have been allowed to gather in small numbers for Holy Week and Easter in the Republic. The Government’s current plan for reopening was “absolutely” too restrictive, he said, and church gatherings should be allowed “as soon as Level 5 was lifted”.

It is currently proposed that the recommencement of religious services on a staggered basis would be considered from May 4th.

Services have already resumed in Northern Ireland, and Archbishop Martin said it was “wonderful” to conduct the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday to a “small, socially-distanced congregation” in the North.

“We are really hoping for the day when across the whole island people can gather to worship safely,” he told RTÉ’s News at One Radio programme.

Same-sex couples

Asked about the language used in a recent Vatican document banning blessings for same-sex couples, Archbishop Martin said it was answering a “specific question” about protecting and promoting the church’s teaching.

“I think the church’s teaching on marriage is very well known and the congregation basically issued the response that, at this time, the Church is not able to bless the same-sex unions,” he said.

Such blessings would “imply they were akin to marriage between a man and a woman, which is open to the transmission of life and the procreation of children. The church simply cannot bless these two as being the same”, he said, adding heterosexual couples looking to be remarried could not do so in the church.

He said priests on the ground needed to “do our best to try to include rather than exclude people to let them realise that you are loved; you can be blessed”.

The document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it was “not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (ie, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”