A Co Cavan priest has said he will not be "dictated to by a pagan and communist government" about how many people can attend Christmas ceremonies in his church.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday's relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions to allow 50 people in church, Fr PJ Hughes, parish priest at Mullahoran, said: "So what? Big deal.
“Who the hell do they think they are giving us permission to have 50 people in? They should mind their own business and let us live our lives and let the people be responsible for their own health.”
Fr Hughes, who was warned he could face prosecution if he continued breaching the rules, said the Government never mentioned Jesus when it announced the Christmas Covid-19 plan.
"It would stick in the Taoiseach's throat if he mentioned Jesus at all," said Fr Hughes. "All he could talk about the other evening was Mr Fox and Roald Dahl. It is not about Jesus anymore."
The priest, who will meet his parish council this week to discuss Christmas plans, said he “ didn’t care any more” if he was “condemned because I was practising my faith”.
The Government previously decided that churches were not “essential services”, he said: “They do not recognise what I do as necessary, and what Jesus Christ did, coming into this world, as necessary.”
The authorities are “turning a blind eye” to breaches by sporting bodies and others, while children and parents are “going from parish to parish to play football and soccer and hurling”.
Faith vs virus
Ministers should accept that “the faith has a role to play in getting out of this virus”, he said. “They have denigrated God plus I must say, the archbishops have let us down.
“They have not spoken up and represented Christ who they signed up to represent. They are giving in to a government who, from where I am standing, don’t believe in God and don’t understand what faith is all about.”
The elderly coming to Mass are “not stupid, they know that they need God, and they come to pray”, he said. “They are not coming to talk to each other, they are not going to spread the virus. They hardly open their mouths.
“When is the penny going to drop with these people in authority that Jesus is the messiah, and that they are not the messiahs, that the CMO or the HSE or Nphet is not the messiah.”