The Irish government has signaled that, as its vaccination program advances, it will begin to relax restrictions cautiously in May. Catholic bishops have urged the authorities to prioritize the resumption of public worship.
Public Masses resumed over the border in Northern Ireland on March 26.
On Sunday, Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin joined Archbishop Martin in criticizing the new regulations.
Writing on the Diocese of Elphin’s Facebook page, he suggested that the measures were incoherent.
“I have just been listening to the Minister for Health speaking about his new statutory instrument which, he says, criminalizes only ‘large-scale gatherings.’ With respect, I believe he is mistaken,” he said.
“The statutory instrument makes it a crime to attend a ‘specified event’ and then goes on to list various exceptions. A minister of religion may attend Mass ‘to lead worship or services remotely through the use of information and communications technology.’ That raises the question as to whether it is the fact of being broadcast that makes Mass lawful.”
He continued: “The statutory instrument has also created an odd anomaly because, while it states that wedding receptions are not ‘specified events,’ the clause which allowed ministers of religion to actually celebrate a marriage, which was there in previous guidance, has been removed from this latest statutory instrument. The minister needs to revisit this.”
Irish broadcaster RTÉ reported that the health minister had indicated his willingness to meet the bishops to discuss the new regulation.