People bereaved by Covid-19 remembered on All Souls Day

Archbishop of Dublin said many were left to grieve alone due to pandemic restrictions

The tragic plight of people who had partners die during the pandemic has been addressed on this All Souls Day by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

“My heart goes out especially to the many spouses who in these times have had to experience the emptiness of grief alone and isolated. Each day they awaken alone to the emptiness,” he said at a Mass Monday morning in the Pro Cathedral.

In the “harsh conditions and restrictions” imposed by the pandemic “many have been unable to grieve. Many are left to grieve alone due to the isolation imposed by pandemic restrictions.

“After death, the bereaved return to what had been their house of family love and interaction, but now someone is missing. The house remains empty,” he said.

The Archbishop recalled the burial of his own mother on All Souls Day 1974. “My mother had died unexpectedly just as our family was preparing for the death of my father who was terminally ill. Our reaction was shock, sadness and grief. We went through the mechanics of funeral preparations in a daze. We went from the funeral of my mother to the hospital to visit my dying father. We were simply numb with shock, grief and uncertainty,” he said.

“In this month of November, we remember those who were dear to us and who have died. In some cases, the memory is a recent one. There is always a first time that we visit the grave of a loved one. The intensity of grief is at its sharpest. With the passage of time, grief diminishes, but grief never goes away,” he said.

In a sermon at the Pro Cathedral on Sunday Archbishop Martin spoke of how "the Church as an institution and the Church in its institutions has too often failed in its responsibilities of reflecting the love of Jesus Christ and has failed those entrusted to its care."

He recalled a comment of Pope Francis to the Irish Bishops on his visit to Ireland in 2018. He told them not to repeat "the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church".

There was a sense in which “harshness became an over dominant thread in Church-run institutions, whereas the message of Jesus is always a message of respect and care and love especially of the most marginalised.” the Archbishop said.

He also spoke of people in the Church today who were “trapped in a fearful and scrupulous understanding of God and of the Church. They then easily become highly judgemental and uncaring.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times