Aontú want to ease restrictions on church attendance
‘An insult to every citizen of faith in Ireland’ was how Aontu’s Mary T. Sweeney described Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s comment that he was “surprised” by church leaders’ requests to ease restrictions on church attendance.
In a statement on Tuesday, bishops at the Spring General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference noted the Taoiseach met the four Catholic Archbishops - Eamon Martin of Armagh, Dermot Farrell of Dublin, Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly, and Michael Neary of Tuam - on February 19 but despite assurances that the concerns expressed by the Archbishops would be given serious consideration, they said they noted with disappointment that none of the issues raised has been responded to.
The archbishops said they were therefore making an urgent appeal that a number of matters be addressed. These include the number of mourners permitted at funeral services be increased, with immediate effect.
They also requested a restoration of public worship as part of the next easing of restrictions, as opposed to later on.
“For people of faith not to be free to worship until regulations return to Level 2, whilst many other restrictions are eased, is seen as particularly distressing and unjust.”
The Letterkenny-based Aontú spokesperson said the Taoiseach was refusing to look at the reality of the situation.
“It is clear that the bishops are following the science and not the politicians. By reopening places of worship, the Taoiseach and his advisers seem to think that churchgoers will act like Rangers or Liverpool fans, celebrating after years in the wilderness.
“His refusal to look at the reality of the situation is an insult to every citizen of faith in Ireland, be they Christian, Muslim, Jew or other,” said the former general election candidate.
“Even with the huge surge in infections after Christmas, which no one has suggested was caused in any way by church attendance, our seven-day average infection rate had fallen below that of the UK just eight days after the peak, and – for all the claimed success of their vaccination programme – their rate only fell below Ireland’s on March 1.”
Ms Sweeney added: “We still have three weeks to Good Friday. With current fall in Covid rates and hospital load, it should be possible to allow the same strictly managed attendance at Easter as we had at Christmas.
“This would have a huge benefit on the spiritual and mental health of hundreds of thousands of people.
“We are asking the government for that most uncommon of virtues: common sense,” she said.
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