However, they argued, funerals are limited to only 10 people at Level 5 of the reopening plan, while a 25-person limit would still allow for safe services and would “bring much consolation to grieving families.”
The bishops also objected to the fact that public worship is banned even at Level 3 of the plan to reopen Ireland.
“[This] ignores the important contribution of communal worship to the mental and spiritual well-being of people of faith. The fundamental importance of Holy Week and Easter for all Christians makes the prohibition of public worship particularly painful,” they said.
“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.”
The bishops also asked the government to provide clarification on when the public may return to sacramental life - particularly to the celebration of First Communion and Confirmation, normally held at the end of the school year. Without this clarification, they said, dioceses have decided to postpone the 2021 Confirmation class until fall, and parishes are encouraged to adopt a similar schedule for First Communion.
“Should the circumstances change for the better, this decision can be revisited in each diocese. In the meantime, we encourage young people and their parents to continue with their preparation. We have provided online resources to support what is being done through the Religious Education programme with the teachers in the schools.”
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In their message, the bishops also challenged priests to do all they can to provide pastoral and sacramental care, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and sacramental care of the sick.
They expressed gratitude that children will return to in-person schooling, and emphasized the need to share the burden with those still struggling under the lockdown.
“All of us appreciate the efforts and the sacrifices of those in our community who provide essential services,” they said. “For many people, however, the continued high level of restriction poses practical and emotional challenges. We want to say very clearly that, in the Christian vision of things, every person is essential and no person is more important or necessary than any other.”