Cross-Border worship: more room in churches than supermarkets, says Bishop of Derry

Bishop Donal McKeown says he will ask churchgoers where they are from when Sainsbury’s starts doing the same

Bishop Donal McKeown: limits of freedom have to be commensurate with risks. File photograph: iStock

Bishop Donal McKeown: limits of freedom have to be commensurate with risks. File photograph: iStock

 

Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown has said he will ask people in churches where they are from when Sainsbury’s supermarkets start doing this.

Responding to a question about people from the Republic attending religious services in the North when Catholic churchs reopen for in-person services on March 26th, Bishop McKeown told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne the limits of freedom have to be commensurate with the risks.

A quarter of parishes in his diocese are in Donegal, he said, and he had “no more concern” about people going to services in the North than he had about people crossing the Border to shop in Sainsbury’s.

There was more space in churches than in supermarkets, he said. “As soon as Sainsbury’s starts asking where people are from, I will do the same.”

Bishop McKeown said he had told parishes they were free to open up and then to make a risk assessment. But he pointed out he was also encouraging people to stay at home.

Churches would also have to practice safety measures so that “even if someone came in loaded with disease” they could not spread the virus.

The Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Northern Ireland will resume in-person services from April 2nd.

The Catholic Church in the North said there will be a “cautious” return a week earlier, from March26th, in time for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter in Northern Ireland .

“Every person should consider carefully if returning to collective worship is the safe and appropriate step for them, at this time,” the Northern Catholic Bishops said in a statement. “ Families are encouraged to join those celebrating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus in churches, from the ‘domestic church’ of their own living rooms, via live-streaming,” the statement earlier this week said.