The Bishops of the six dioceses of the Province of the Archdiocese of Tuam are calling on the government to increase the number of people allowed to attend funerals under the present Level 5 Covid 19 restrictions. They consider 25 as a safe but more reasonable number than the present 10.
They made their appeal in a Pastoral Message, published today, to mark the first anniversary of the appearance of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.
They have also decided to defer the Sacrament of Confirmation for the 2021 class until the Autumn, and encourage their parishes to consider doing the same in relation to First Holy Communion.
In the Pastoral message the Bishops state that the pandemic has touched parish communities, particularly given the tragic loss of so many lives, and they understand the experience of disappointment and frustration that many people feel, at the news of an indefinite extension of lockdown.
It acknowledges the efforts and the sacrifices of those in our community who provide essential services. “As Church leaders, we have consistently supported the public health restrictions on the grounds that they serve the common good”.
We recognise the need for prudence and caution at the present time, in the light of the terrible loss of life in January and February, and we accept absolutely that now is not the time for a major reopening of society. We have carefully considered the five stage government plan “Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead”, published last week.
There are two things in this plan which the Bishops find “very difficult to support”.
One of those is the fact that at level 5, all funerals are still limited to 10 people. We believe that a modest increase to 25 would, without compromising safety, bring much consolation to grieving families.
Our second concern is that public worship is still excluded even at level 3. This would suggest that we may not have the opportunity to celebrate Mass together for months to come. The fundamental importance of Holy Week and Easter for all Christians, makes the prohibition of public worship particularly painful. While, as Christians, we are obliged to obey these regulations, we believe that it is our responsibility as Church leaders to make the case for change. We will continue to make fair and reasonable representation and we encourage you to do likewise.
In so far as the Government plan currently offers no clarity about when we might expect to return to public Sacramental life, we find it difficult to have any confidence that the Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation can be celebrated before the end of the present school year. As of now, we have decided to defer the Sacrament of Confirmation for the 2021 class until the Autumn, and we encourage our parishes to consider doing the same in relation to First Holy Communion.
Speaking to Midwest News this afternoon Archbishop Neary said that he is very open to go ahead with the sacraments as soon as it is safe to do so under public health guidelines, and if people and priests want to go ahead with the sacrament of Confirmation sooner than next Autumn, and public safety allows it, he will be gladly facilitate it.