The Archbishop of Cashel-Emly Kieran O’Reilly, has described as “disappointing” a HSE letter recommending the diocese defer first holy communion and confirmations to September, to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Archbishop O’Reilly also cautioned parents in the diocese against holding communion or confirmation house parties for persons outside of their immediate family.
A letter signed by Dr Rose Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Public Health Mid West, was sent on Tuesday to the dioceses of Cashel-Emily, Limerick, and Killaloe, stating, "it is our view that these ceremonies should be deferred unit September 2021, due to the current high rate of Covid-19 infection in the mid-west region, [and that], by September most of those eligible should be fully vaccinated against Covid".
The department received “queries in relation to the holding of first holy communion and confirmation ceremonies over the summer period in the Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary region”, according to the letter.
A letter from the Cashel-Emly diocese to local clergy, parents, guardians and school principals explains the HSE’s position. Archbishop O’Reilly, in this letter, states that he recognises “ceremonies are already scheduled” and that the HSE’s recommendation “is disappointing at this time”.
Archbishop O’Reilly does not say ceremonies should be deferred, but states that serious consideration must be given to the HSE’s recommendation. He adds that “it is hard to come out with one overall directive” as there is a variety of church situations across the archdiocese.
Over 500 cases have been identified in the mid west in the past two weeks.
Daily case numbers in Limerick have reduced significantly, following a surge in cases last month. on Tuesday 16 cases were identified in Limerick, compared with 74 cases on June 6th.
A spokesman for Public Health Mid West said churchs are generally safe environments, indoor gatherings associated with communions and confirmations are considered high-risk for people who are unvaccinated.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Killaloe said it had circulated the HSE’s advice to all parishes, and that they expected parishes to consult with schools before making a final decision on deferring communions or confirmations.
“Parishes will be happy to facilitate the wishes of the parents in these matters and provide alternatives where necessary.
“The final decision as to whether sacraments will be celebrated during the summer will be made in the context of the local parish in consultation with the families of the candidates, having been made aware of the HSE recommendations and having taken local circumstances into consideration.”