Many now carrying heavy crosses due to Covid-19, Catholic Primate says

Restrictions on public worship justified for limited time, says Archbishop of Dublin

Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said people are feeling fear, weariness and uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said people are feeling fear, weariness and uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.


Covid-19 has left people feeling “uncertainty about the future, weariness with the ongoing restrictions” and fear “with talk of new waves and new variants of the virus”, Catholic Primate Archbisho p Eamon Martin has said.

“With the restrictions, there has been much sadness and disappointment in many families that loved ones have been unable to travel home,” he said.

“Many of the usual family ‘get-togethers’, customs and visits have been curtailed or disrupted completely, or gone virtual, or simply treasured and stored away again in the memory until next year, please God.”

Speaking at Mass in St Patrick’s Church at Pennyburn in Derry, Archbishop Martin recalled how “since the beginning of the pandemic many families among us have had to carry heavy crosses of separation, sickness, grief and loss, worries about employment and finances, or simply missing those comforting family rituals of being together, visiting, and being close and present to each other in the normal way”.

He advised that the “three gifts of serenity, courage and wisdom are much needed in our families this Christmas – jostled as we are with the ongoing Covid19 crisis”.

In Dublin, Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said “believers are saddened at restrictions on access to public worship in our Churches.” Restrictions on public worship came into force again on St Stephen’s Day.

Unexpected places

“Today and in the coming days we have to realise that we may find Jesus in unexpected places. I am not saying that restrictions in public worship are inappropriate. They can be justified for a limited time and in a proportionate manner to respond to a human emergency,” he said in his Christmas sermon.

“The pandemic is a call to find in life values that our consumer society can easily let fall into the background of our mentality. The absence of being able to attend public worship should help us to seek a more integral understanding of what worship means,” he said in his Christmas sermon.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said “we must never forget that, in the distribution and the application of the vaccine, there are substantial justice issues of which we, in our own eagerness, might lose sight.

“We have neither permission nor entitlement to ease up in our vigilance or in our compliance. We and countless millions live in an unburst cloud of grief and loss and bereavement. Countless people suffer daily, indeed hourly, from human separation. We can never forget those who have died in the time of the coronavirus,” he said.

“We are not asked to be individual Public Health Experts; we are not asked to be Covid–police of the actions of others in our community; we are asked to watch out for each other carefully and positively and kindly and to do the same things for ourselves as for others by continuing the simple things: ‘Keep our distance; Wash our hands; Wear our masks; Limit our contacts; Opt for ventilation’.”

Campaign group the Iona Institute said religious leaders should challenge the “latest ban on public worship”. It said “public worship has been effectively banned again in Ireland because of the increase in Covid case numbers. Leo Varadkar has indicated that the new level 5 restrictions could continue for two months”.

Religious leaders in Ireland “should strongly question whether the move is proportionate given the very strong safety measures churches have successfully introduced during the periods when we could attend Mass and other religious services,” it said.

“In France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the US, legal challenges have been successfully mounted against overly-strict curbs on religious worship.”