Devastating effects of pandemic restrictions on priests outlined by Catholic Primate

‘Millions of people across the country are gathering virtually for Mass each week’

Covid-19 ‘has cruelly restricted our capacity to draw close to families who are bereaved’, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said. File photograph: Tom Honan

Covid-19 ‘has cruelly restricted our capacity to draw close to families who are bereaved’, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said. File photograph: Tom Honan

 

The coronavirus pandemic had struck at the very heart of the ministry of priests, curtailing their normal outreach to the sick, the elderly and the dying, Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.

“Perhaps saddest of all, it has cruelly restricted our capacity to draw close to families who are bereaved,” he said.

He also said it had “driven our congregations indoors, forced us to stay apart, prevented us from having the public celebration of Mass and hindered us from offering the healing sacraments of reconciliation and anointing in the normal manner.

“The virus has closed our schools, it has postponed the joyful celebrations of Baptism and Marriage, and delayed the happiness of Confirmation and First Holy Communion days. It has heightened anxieties and fears amongst our parishioners and threatened their jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

But it had also “brought out the best in our people”, he said.

“It is humbling for us to witness the generosity and care of so many members of our congregations who are working in hospitals, nursing homes and in other frontline services.

“We are amazed at the loving response of our young people, sporting organisations, community groups and charities who are reaching out to the elderly, the lonely and the vulnerable - preparing cooked meals and fetching groceries, stocking foodbanks and offering messages of encouragement and hope,” he said.

He said parishes had “taken to cyberspace like never before” with “millions of people across the country are gathering virtually for Mass each week”.

“Our calling as priests remains strong in this crisis: to be with our people, to encourage them, to bring them the hope and consolation,” he said.

But he added that “there will be more sacrifices for our people and ourselves to make before this Covid-19 crisis is all over”.

Archbishop Martin was speaking on Thursday morning at Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Colman in Newry, Co Down.

The Chrism Mass is held on Holy Thursday during Holy Week in every Catholic diocese when priests, deacons and representatives of the diocesan community gather around the bishop, who blesses Holy Oils for use in the coming year. They also renew their vow of obedience to the bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people.