While public worship was suspended in the Republic of Ireland at the end of 2020 as a safety measure to the prevent the spread of the virus, the new regulations effectively criminalize Mass with a congregation.
The statement said: “Archbishop Eamon Martin explained the deep concerns already expressed with regard to the criminalizing of leading, and gathering for, public worship at this time in Ireland despite the consistent support from the Churches for public health messaging since the beginning of the pandemic.”
“He reiterated the Church’s support for the protection of health, life, and for the common good, and he emphasized the importance of respecting and sustaining people’s spiritual well-being alongside their physical and mental health. For people of faith, he added, this is deemed essential.”
The statement continued: “The Archbishop emphasized that the vital pastoral work of priests and other ministers on the ground should also be respected and deemed essential, rather than subject to penal sanction. Ministers of religion are often on the front line supporting the sick, the bereaved, the isolated, and those who are struggling to cope.”
“Pastoral ministry and spiritual support, which are so important for people during the time of pandemic, ought not to be confined to a small number of legally acceptable and ‘regulated activities.’”
The new regulations, which came into force on April 13, forbid most large gatherings, with a narrow list of exceptions, including for priests celebrating Mass via live stream, as well as wedding receptions and funerals.