Public Masses have remained suspended in Ireland for months despite restrictions being lifted in neighboring countries.
Public Masses have continued in England throughout a stringent lockdown that began on Jan. 4. A landmark legal ruling led to the resumption of public Masses in Scotland on March 24. Public worship resumed in Northern Ireland on March 26.
Irish bishops expressed dismay earlier this month when the government introduced measures effectively criminalizing Mass with a congregation.
The new regulations, contained in a document known as statutory instrument 171 of 2021, currently 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.
A statutory instrument is a form of secondary legislation allowing government ministers to legislate on day-to-day matters.
After the Church became aware of the regulations, days after they were approved, Archbishop Eamon Martin requested an urgent meeting with Ireland’s health minister.
Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, expressed his objections to the statutory instrument when he met with Stephen Donnelly on April 19.
A statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference on the same day said that the Church would continue to seek “clarification and legal advice regarding the extent and implications of the statutory instrument.”