Donegal priest to proceed with Communions despite Coalition advice

Cleric to press ahead with ceremony as ‘summer one of safest times’ to stage sacraments

Fr John Joe Duffy:  ‘The Government’s arguments simply do not add up.’ Photograph: North West Newspix

Fr John Joe Duffy: ‘The Government’s arguments simply do not add up.’ Photograph: North West Newspix

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A Co Donegal priest has said one of the reasons he will be holding First Communions this weekend is because he fears there will be an increase in Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks.

Fr John Joe Duffy of St Michael’s Church in Creeslough will celebrate First Communion with 18 pupils from two local schools.

It will be one of the first churches to give the go-ahead for the sacraments despite Government guidelines advising against such religious events.

“Personally I feel that September will bring an increase in the virus. We will be getting back into flu season and the Government is already talking about having to give booster vaccinations to the population,” said Fr Duffy.

“I feel that now over the summer months is one of the safest times to hold Communions and Confirmations. This is one of a number of reasons I have for pressing ahead with the communions after the Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, said it was okay to do so.”

‘Anti-church’

Fr Duffy has been supported by parents from local schools including those in Scoil Mhuire National School and Glassan National School.

He noted the fact that large gatherings had been taking place for several weeks now and claimed the Government was in many ways being “anti-church” in not allowing Communions and Confirmations to take place.

“We will have 40,000 people at Croke Park for the All-Ireland and I very much love the GAA. But how can the Government say this is safe but that a small gathering in a church among children who are already probably playing together is not?” he said.

“If you break it down, the majority of people there will be parents and the majority of those are already vaccinated and there are no plans to vaccinate those aged between eight and 12 years anyway.

“The Government’s arguments simply do not add up and it is my opinion that the church has simply been ignored while the majority of other sectors of our society are being allowed to press forward.”

He rejected suggestions that after-Communion parties in houses could lead to a spread of the virus. Families would simply be returning to their homes for family celebrations with godparents and grandparents, he said.

Referring to the recent controversy over a gathering of political figures at the Merrion Hotel, Fr Duffy added: “It seems to me that parents would need to invite the Tánaiste or Katherine Zappone to a Communion bash on the back lawn of the Merrion Hotel to get the confidence of the Government. Clarification would then be given retrospectively and everything would be hunky dory.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last week apologised for going to the event, which was attended by about 50 people. While the Government published “clarified” guidelines on gatherings afterwards, Mr Varadkar denied these had been updated because of the controversy.

Local reaction

Mother of five boys Treasa McFadden, whose eight-year-old son Mark will make his communion on Sunday, said she had no issues with the ceremony going ahead.

“There are already 50 people allowed in churches for general Masses so I simply don’t see what the issue is. The vast majority of those are vaccinated and many of the children already play together. I really do not think the Government have put enough thought into this,” she said.

“I welcome the Communion and Confirmations going ahead and I know Fr John Joe and the church will ensure that all guidelines are followed.

“We will be gathering as a family at home and there will certainly be no big bash as we are very aware of the guidelines and ensuring our children’s safety,” she added.

Noreen Sheridan has a busy month with her daughter nine-year-old Cassie making her Communion this weekend, while son Michael makes his Confirmation on August 29th.

“I really don’t think the Government has given ordinary people enough credit. We have lived with Covid since last year so we all know the guidelines . . . We will not be putting our families in danger. I just think there are so many contradictions in these guidelines,” she said.

“These children have suffered and sacrificed so much already. I don’t think the Government has taken into account how much of an effect cancelling such occasions has had on their mental health,” she added.

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