Catholic bishops urge public to support Covid vaccine programme

Anyone who does not take vaccine should do utmost to avoid spreading virus, bishops say

Vaccines ‘provided greater protection for people’s health, especially that of the most vulnerable’, the bishops have said. Photograph: iStock

Vaccines ‘provided greater protection for people’s health, especially that of the most vulnerable’, the bishops have said. Photograph: iStock


The Catholic bishops have urged everyone on the island of Ireland to support the vaccination programme in both jurisdictions as it “provided greater protection for people’s health, especially that of the most vulnerable”.

It had also helped “to ease the restrictions placed on the social and religious life of our communities and to keep hospital beds free for other essential and urgent medical needs”, they said.

The bishops were speaking at the conclusion of their winter meeting on Wednesday evening. It was conducted via video link unlike their autumn meeting last October which was conducted in person at Maynooth.

They recalled how in August this year Pope Francis described getting a Covid-19 vaccine as “an act of love”, and that “getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable”.

They also said “face coverings should continue to be worn at all gatherings in our churches and parish buildings” and advised that at Christmas “when people come to churches in larger numbers, careful planning will be needed in our parishes and sensible precautions should be put in place, in line with public health guidance”.

Addressing Catholics with concerns about vaccines, they said: “Anyone who, for reasons of conscience, chooses not to be vaccinated must, nevertheless, do their utmost to avoid, by other means and by appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infection.”

They also asked health authorities in the North and the Republic to “actively promote the development, sourcing and supply of vaccines which do not have a historical link with abortion”.

Foetal cell lines

In their December 2020 statement the bishops addressed concerns that human foetal cell lines which had origins in abortion may have been used in the development and production of some Covid-19 vaccines.

They said it was “morally permissible for Catholics to accept a vaccine which involves the use of foetal cell lines, especially if the potential risk to life or health is significant, as in the case of a pandemic. Refusal to accept a vaccine could contribute to significant loss of life in the community and especially among those who are most vulnerable. This reality must inform any judgment of conscience.”

The United States-based pro-life Lozier Institute has established that no Covid-19 vaccine contains cells from aborted foetuses. It pointed out that mRNA vaccines, such as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, are synthetic vaccines and do not use foetal cell lines in their production.

A replica cell line from a foetus aborted in 1973 was used to develop the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine. However, it said, the vaccine itself does not contain foetal cells.

The Catholic bishops also called on governments in both jurisdictions on the island, and each individual, “to support efforts to provide vaccines for those in the developing world. Unless every person around the world has access to vaccines then we will all be vulnerable to Covid-19 for many years to come.”

They repeated their gratitude “to all those who are working on the frontline in hospitals, nursing homes and as carers during this pandemic”.