church vs state

It's bishop's 'right' to hold communions despite Covid advice, says Catholic Comms Office

“The mission of the church cannot be put on hold indefinitely”, Bishop Kevin Doran said.

THE BISHOP OF Elphin has told parish priests in his diocese that communions and confirmations will go ahead in the coming weeks. 

Bishop Kevin Doran said that he has held discussions with senior priests in his diocese, which includes parts of Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and Galway, and has decided that scheduled ceremonies would proceed in line with public health regulations. 

Writing in the Irish Independent, Doran said: “The mission of the church cannot be put on hold indefinitely.”

He said the guidance issued by Government was advice rather than regulation. 

“When we celebrate first holy communion and confirmation in the Diocese of Elphin in coming weeks, we will observe a strict limit of 50, except in the very few churches where pods are legitimately in operation,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the Catholic Communications Office told The Journal: “It’s the right of a diocesan bishop and his local parish priests to decide on administering the sacraments locally.” 

Speaking today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he had not seen Doran’s statement, but did not approve “of any unilateral breaching regulations, no matter what cohort they come from.”

“I would say to the church authorities that the government’s only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in in respect of gatherings and congregations is to protect people, is to protect people’s health. That is our only motivation, and I think that should be accepted in good faith,” he said.

Martin added that the Government was open to engaging with sectors and representative groups going forward “because we do appreciate that this is very difficult.”

Doran’s comments come after the Government announced that the number of guests at weddings can increase from 50 to 100 from 5 August.

Baptisms can also resume from the same date, but communions and confirmations continue to be off limits. 

The ban on the ceremonies has been in place since Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions were put in place at the start of the year.

Doran said the “cavalier manner” that the Church was asked to postpone communions and confirmations until further notice ”while the rest of society is being encouraged to reopen, demonstrates very little understanding or respect for the meaning of church and sacrament, especially in the lives of young families.”

He also said that while Catholics “understood and supported” public health restrictions and lockdowns, they do not understand why the Government are still asking them to postpone “key religious celebrations” two months after restrictions on public worship were lifted.

“In all our churches at the moment it is possible for us to have congregations of 50 for mass and, in the larger churches, this may extend to a number of pods of 50 people,” he said. 

“Nobody has given me a satisfactory explanation as to why it is a problem if some of those 50 people happen to be receiving communion for the first time.”

He also acknowledged Government concern around social gatherings and parties that take place after communions and confirmations, but said that “the guidance for social and family gatherings outdoors and in people’s homes have been significantly relaxed”.

“It seems the Government has no problem with that,” he added.

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