Ireland, a country of 4.9 million people, has recorded 299,549 coronavirus cases and 5,035 related deaths as of July 31, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The country is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant first detected in India.
RTÉ reported that Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore, in southeastern Ireland, criticized the way that the government and National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 (NPHET) communicated with the Church.
“The communication from the government and from NPHET regarding the sacraments leaves a great deal to be desired,” the bishop said.
“We are all conscious of the need to remain vigilant. Parishes have been exemplary in taking the health guidelines seriously and will continue to do so, but for any local parish community and their priest who wish to avail of these sacraments, they must be allowed to do so.”
“Therefore in line with the four archbishops’ letter to the government this week, access to these sacraments for our children will go ahead from mid-August.”
RTÉ also reported that Bishop Larry Duffy, whose diocese of Clogher straddles the border with Northern Ireland, said that the ceremonies would take place in the Republic of Ireland from Aug. 20.
“The appropriate protocols presently in place in our churches will be maintained, and families are reminded of the need for adherence to public health guidance in relation to social interactions following the church celebration,” he said.
“As with the practice last year, these liturgies will take place with small groups of children where attendance is restricted to the child, the parents/guardians, and sponsor.”
“The celebration of First Holy Communion and confirmation has been completed already in the parishes situated in the northern part of our diocese, with full adherence to public health protocols.”
Archbishop Martin previously criticized the Irish government’s approach to public worship during the coronavirus crisis.
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In April, he accused officials of introducing “draconian” new regulations on public worship “in a clandestine manner.”
While public worship was suspended in the Republic of Ireland at the end of 2020 as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the new regulations effectively criminalized Mass with a congregation.
After meeting with Ireland’s health minister, Martin underlined that priests’ pastoral work should be “deemed essential, rather than subject to penal sanction” amid the pandemic.
Irish Catholics’ long wait to return to public Masses ended on May 10.