Be more vigilant on social distancing, archbishop tells parishes

Diarmuid Martin says public health authorities are concerned about church breaches

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien


Observance of social distancing restrictions had become lax in Catholic parishes and must be tightened up due the growing number of Covid-19 cases in greater Dublin, Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.

In a statement issued to all 197 of Dublin’s Catholic parishes on Tuesday evening, he said indications were “that social distancing in some cases has become loose, especially before and after liturgical ceremonies. I know that the public health authorities have contacted several bishops concerned about breaches of social distancing,” he said.

“I have seen some examples in our Dublin churches and indeed some parishes have published photos on parish websites that indicate poor practice. I would ask all parishes to examine carefully how they can foster staggered exiting from churches and prevent gatherings at church entrances,” he said.

“In addition, I would remind parishes that the norms which permit gatherings of up to 50 people or ‘pods’ of 50 people in church buildings applies to religious services alone. For any other gatherings such as meetings or concerts, the limit is six people.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn had “drawn attention to the worrying increase in people contracting the coronavirus in the greater Dublin area. He addressed an urgent appeal for strict observance of all the hygiene measures that are needed at this moment,” the Archbishop said.

“It is important that our parishes and churches give good example and that we remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus.”

In the main, parishes, he said “have been scrupulous in respecting the current norms. Stewarding has been correct without being offensively martial. Numbers attending have not been great but there has been a slow increase as people begin to overcome initial fears.

“First communions and confirmations have taken place in small groups and I have heard many positive comments on the prayerful atmosphere of these celebrations.”

The Archbishop noted also that there was “a growing awareness internationally that ‘visors’ provide less protection than face masks. While the current public health norms permit the use of ‘visors’, where there are health reasons for not wearing face masks, prudence is advised.”

He was “happy that for the most part Churches are exemplary in their respect for the norms. The growing number of cases in the greater Dublin area would urge us to be particularly vigilant at this moment.”