Religious services in a time of pandemic

 

Sir, – Maurice O’Brien believes that Level 3 restrictions preventing people from participating at church services involving a congregation is an “injustice” (Letters, Oct.ober 13th).

However. individual rights are not absolute and their exercise can and should be limited if the requirements of the common good demand such limitation.

While it’s true, as I’ve witnessed, that church authorities made every effort to create a safe environment under Level 2 for the faithful attending Mass, a different health and safety scenario has now emerged with the trajectory of Covid-19 outbreaks and the stretching of our health services to breaking point.

Most of the church faithful realise the grave seriousness of this situation and believe that social interaction in this second wave of the deadly pandemic should be reduced to a minimum, and that includes congregating for Mass.

The celebration of the Eucharist in a confined church setting is not an absolute, and some creative thinking is necessary. Indeed, some parishes have adapted their celebrations by using their large car-parks to organise drive-in Masses which protects parishioners as safely as possible.

Mr O’Brien has every right to challenge the authority of the State to impose Covid-19 restrictions on the untrammelled exercise of religious liberty.

However, church congregations, who are made up of people mostly in the higher age group, are most vulnerable to the ravages of this killer virus and should be protected to the utmost degree.

If that means the temporary suspension of Masses inside churches, on sound health and scientific grounds that are designed to protect our vulnerable elder population, then the common good trumps demands for the unrestricted exercise of religious rights. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Your editorial “Churches in the pandemic – taking a toll on the faithful” (October 11th) claims that four Catholic archbishops “made an unrealistic request in asking Taoiseach Micheál Martin to allow special arrangements where Covid-19 restrictions are concerned by allowing the public celebration of Mass”.

This seems an unfair characterisation of what the archbishops were requesting.

Those of us ministering within Catholic parishes are all too aware of the risks to the health of many older parishioners, but going to most churches could be, with limited numbers and adherence to Covid prevention regulations, as safe as visiting a shop.

For practising Catholics, receiving the eucharist is being in communion with God, something that cannot be done via a webcam. – Yours, etc,

FRANK BROWNE,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – The first thing that surprises me is that many, if not most, daily religious services are broadcast live either by television or else direct on the relevant parish website.

Although not at all a panacea, this offers everyone a real chance to participate in the liturgy.

We have to remember what we are dealing with – a deadly epidemic at local level with considerable community penetration and onward transmission. The advice has been to avoid crowded areas, confined spaces and venues without ventilation. Sadly many churches do fall into this category.

Communal worship tends to be a convivial and interactive event, with many potential modes of infection, and this is multiplied by the numbers participating; witness the horror stories of superspreader events and doubts over the safety of traditional choir-singing, even if socially distanced.

The real heroes and heroines here are the priests and the laypeople who continue to offer spiritual gifts, despite the clear and ever-present grave risk to their own lives and wellbeing.

Let’s stay safe and forget about in-person attendance indoors for now. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN NEWMAN,

Dublin 11.