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'God can help us': Cavan priest will continue to hold Mass despite Level 5 rules

“A scientist cannot tell me that what he does is more important than what God does,” Father PJ Hughes told RTÉ Radio One.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran.
Image: Google Streetview

A CAVAN PRIEST has said that he will continue to hold Mass for locals despite a warning from Gardaí that this is against the current Covid-19 restrictions.

Father PJ Hughes, a parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran, held a Mass last Sunday where around 50 people attended. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Fr Hughes said that Gardaí called five minutes before the Mass was due to start, said he was in breach of the regulations, and that he should tell those who had gathered to go home.

“It was a punch in the stomach, it was the worst time to come… if it was an hour before… It made me sad.”

He said that he told Gardaí he wasn’t telling people to go home, as “it would be a huge insult to their faith”. He said the church normally accommodates around 500 people. 

“That was only the start of it,” Father Hughes said. Gardaí informed him after the Mass that a file had been prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions and that if he was convicted, he could face a fine of up to €2,500, and spend up to six months in prison.

Religious services are not permitted under Level Five restrictions, but places of worship, like churches, can remain open for individuals to pray. 25 people are allowed at weddings and 25 at funerals, and some priests have been hosting online Masses.

During the interview, the priest said that the right to practice their religion was important, and that as far as he was concerned, he “broke no law”.

“I’m here to serve the Church and the people, not the government,” he said. 

“We’re told not to baptise anybody now, not to celebrate the sacraments, that’s unbelievable.

It’s telling people you cannot practice your faith. Are we going to live in a Communist state or what? I know the virus is there, but at the same time, we have to live.
God can help us, god is creater of heaven and Earth. A scientist cannot tell me that what he does is more important than what god does.

When it was put to him that a scientist would tell him that your faith won’t stop you transmitting a virus from one person to another, the priest said “well I can tell you, that scientist is wrong, because god has healed people, he has even raised people from the dead”.

He said that he would continue the I am saying Mass, but would not publicise what time the Mass is at.

“The Government has no regard for people who are living alone,” he said, adding that his parishioners are “100% supportive behind me”, and that “not one person” has said he should stop celebrating Mass.

“We have a divine right to worship god, somebody show me the law that says I’m wrong.”

Dr Gabriel Scally, a public health physician said that he was “really quite shocked” at the comments. 

I understand that people have strong religious views and strong religious faith, but I don’t see why – particularly at this time – they have to be exercised together. People can pray to their god and worship their god and say their prayers by themselves.

He said that during the pandemic, it was “wrong” for people to gather together, particularly elderly or vulnerable people. He said it’s not just the people who gather who are at risk, because it can spread beyond that to others in their community.

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“There is no religious exceptionalism here… the virus doesn’t operate that way. It’s irresponsible, it’s un-Christian,” he told the same radio programme.

Former minister for social protection Regina Doherty said on Twitter that whether or not people agree with Father Hughes, “he certainly is giving life to the frustration that far more people are feeling regarding living in lockdown. We need a debate about Reopening Ireland now,” the Fine Gael senator said.

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