DUBLIN – Roman Catholic leaders rebel against Irish government to forbid on First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, a pandemic policy that some pastors say is still necessary to prevent the church from becoming a super-broadcaster.
The clash between church and state in the predominantly Catholic country comes as Ireland’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has enabled much of society – but not its churches – to reopen completely even if cases of the Delta variant Keep going up.
The main concern of policymakers is not the events of fellowship and confirmation within churches, but the often watered and close events. house parties who can follow them.
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell said the government discriminated against devout Catholics, as other social gatherings were allowed with only modest restrictions. This includes, as of Thursday, baptisms in Catholic churches.
In a letter to his priests, Farrell said government guidelines “restrict the celebration of the sacraments on the grounds that they may lead to family reunions, which may violate public health guidelines on mixing households.”
“It’s confusing,” he wrote, “because no such ban is applied to other events, such as sporting or civic events, or other family occasions, such as the celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, or even weddings or funerals. Many have concluded that, without proper justification, these guidelines are discriminatory. “
Bishops outside the capital argue that they are postponing parishioners’ pleas since last year and cannot justify further delays, given that dozens of thousands are permitted at events at Croke Park, Ireland’s largest stadium.
“We tell the priests of our parishes to pull forward, but to do it very carefully. We ask families to keep holidays to a minimum, ”said Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan, whose diocese stretches from County Offaly in the Midlands to Clare on the Atlantic coast.
The government, aware that the issue is losing out in conservative rural parts of Ireland, has avoided threatening priests or parishes with legal action.
But a cabinet minister called on religious leaders not to ignore restrictions designed to protect the public and hospitals from unnecessary spikes in infection.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said it was not yet correct to allow normal First Communion ceremonies, when entire classes of 8-year-old children receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time in accordance with the teaching of the church, nor of confirmations four years later when these classes promise a lifetime membership in the Catholic faith.
“While it is frustrating to see these delays, no one will be hurt by waiting a little longer to have this special day,” said McConalogue, whose home county of Donegal is constantly close to or at the top national infection rates.
While most priests publicly support their leaders, some question their haste, given that the vaccination program is about to be extended to children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Tony Flannery, co-founder of a popular group called Association of Catholic Priests who often defies their bishops, said their decision to flout government guidelines was “extraordinary” and would encourage more reckless behavior.
“When people in positions of authority like bishops openly go against the advice of health officials and government,” Flannery said, “it opens up more extreme groups like anti-vaccines.” .