Church leaders press Government to allow public worship

Four Catholic archbishops ask to meet Taoiseach to discuss Covid-19 restrictions

The car park at St Brendan’s church in  Coolock, Dublin, stands empty last March as Fr Paddy Stanley celebrates Sunday Mass broadcast live via webcam. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The car park at St Brendan’s church in Coolock, Dublin, stands empty last March as Fr Paddy Stanley celebrates Sunday Mass broadcast live via webcam. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

There have been further calls for churches to be allowed open for public worship as Level 5 restrictions advise otherwise across Ireland. These state that no church, mosque or synagogue be open for public liturgies over coming weeks, though they may remain open for private prayer.

On October 8th last Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin requesting a meeting to discuss these restrictions. It has yet to take place.

A group of 70 pastors attached to evangelical Christian denominations in Ireland has written to the Taoiseach and members of the Government warning of “severe” consequences if restrictions on public worship in their churches were to continue.

The letter, which was also sent to all TDs, said the restrictions were “counterproductive during a season when people desperately need the hope and community that so many find in church life and public worship”.

They said that “unfortunately on a wider scale in the local communities in which we serve we are seeing domestic violence, self-harm and even suicide. As we enter the darker winter season, we believe that these issues will only grow worse,” the pastors stated.

The restrictions were “unwarranted” given the steps taken to ensure the safety of congregations during the Covid-19 pandemic to date, they said.

Their churches represented more than 70 nationalities in Ireland, and included Iranian, Chinese, Romanian, Russian and Indian churches, along with congregations from parts of Africa, they said.

The Irish Church Together group has lent its support to this call by the 70 pastors. Noting that it represents the evangelical stream in Catholic, Protestant, pentecostal and new churches all over Ireland, the group expressed serious concern at the effects of the restrictions on people’s mental health.

“If ever there was a time that churches in Ireland needed to be open it is now! When people are losing their jobs, fearful about the future and struggling to make ends meet, they need the comfort, hope and solace that is found in the community of faith.

“We are conscious that many people all over this nation have a deep desire to return to public worship. Freedom of worship is a sacred, God-given right, one that Government should respect,” they said.

“As people of faith, we believe that there is a direct correlation between a person’s spiritual health and their mental health. It is clear that many people across this nation are struggling with anxiety, despair, depression and a pervading sense of hopelessness, compounded by these ongoing lockdowns.

“In view of this, we believe that it is counterproductive to have churches closed during a season when people desperately need the hope and community that so many find in church life and public worship,” they said.

In support of their call, they quote Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Phonsie Cullinan, Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran, and Church of Ireland Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin, and Ardagh Ferran Glenfield.