Pandemic restrictions and attending public worship

Sir, – The disconnect between politicians and the people whom they are supposed to serve has rarely been as obvious as it has become at this stage of the pandemic.

There are some people who attend public worship on a regular basis, others who do so occasionally, and still others who do so infrequently. But for all of these people, public worship is regarded as being important, and for a substantial number of them, an essential part of their lives, whether they be Christians, Jews or Muslims. Even those who are indifferent to religious worship recognise it as a fundamental right of citizens in a democratic republic. That is why the Constitution specifically recognises the right to engage in public worship in unequivocal terms.

This fundamental right has been substantially abolished by the Irish Government for the best part of a year. Not only that, but politicians profess themselves as being quite astonished by that the fact that there are many in society who can be so unreasonable as to insist on a change in this attitude. People should recognise, they imply, that public worship is not essential (unlike supermarket shopping), and that the constitutional protection afforded to it is meaningless.

Of course, if there were actual evidence that public worship (under the controlled conditions specified previously by the Government) were a serious threat to public health, then the politicians’ stance might be justified. But reasonable people would find it difficult to understand how the extraordinary care previously taken in places of worship to protect against infection failed to have that effect; and how supermarkets can be allowed to do business as they do, very often in defiance of such precautions without criticism from the same politicians.


It is not unreasonable to suggest that the politicians should now disclose the concrete data which they claim exists which proves that attendance at public worship in the controlled conditions recommended by the Government is a threat to public health. Specifically, how many cases of Covid-19 infection have been identified and traced to attendance at public worship? In this context, people are entitled to hard data – not the myth or speculation on which this Government appears to thrive.

The Government promised to protect the frail and elderly at the beginning of this pandemic. It failed them miserably. The most cruel act of an uncaring Government is the refusal to allow those who have died to have the dignity of a proper funeral service which can be attended by their loved ones. How 30 people in a church which can accommodate 300 for a funeral service can be regarded as presenting a serious threat to public health is beyond the understanding of most people.

Of course, what happens outside the church doors, or at the cemetery, when people gather to pay their final respects may present such a threat, but experience shows that that will happen regardless of the number of family members present in church at the funeral service.

The fact that a risk of infection may present at a later stage of funeral proceedings does not justify such a cruel limitation on familial attendance at funeral services in church as that insisted upon by the Government. – Yours, etc,



Sir, –I once again note continued efforts by leaders of certain Christian denominations to pressure government to reopen churches in time for Easter.

Notwithstanding the importance of Easter in the Christian calendar, one has to ask what is the rush to reopen churches for public worship at this time? Continued restrictions would appear to be successfully suppressing the Covid-19 virus in our communities.

Most Churches now possess the technology to connect with their parishioners online, and while admittedly it isn’t the same as in-person worship and is far from perfect, it’s a safe way for people to gather virtually and offer prayer and worship to God. God’s presence isn’t confined to church buildings and the proclamation of Easter will be made irrespective of where it is physically made from.

Yes, people need the Easter message of light and hope to sustain them during these dark and challenging times. However, they also need to receive this message in a manner which facilitates public safety and peace of mind. When we live in such a technologically advanced age, why on earth would we rush back to in-person worship when the prevailing scientific advice is to continue to remain socially distant for the protection of the elderly and vulnerable in our society, especially when the elderly and vulnerable are such a large cohort of church attendances these days?

In-person public worship is the normative way to gather together to praise the Lord and all Christian people greatly look forward to its resumption. However, we are not living in normal times and we must continue to acknowledge this reality.

Christ’s sacrificial love for humanity is at the core of the Easter message. Christ’s body, the church, should emulate this sacrificial love by foregoing in-person public worship for the common good of society at the present time.

In the meantime, let us all celebrate the Easter season as best we can and proclaim to a suffering world that Christ is truly risen and pray for the eradication of the virus so that all aspects of our lives can return to normal as soon as possible. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.