Calls for public Masses 'grossly irresponsible' says Irish priests' group

Churches across Northern Ireland closed their doors because of coronavirus outbreak. Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Hughes

A GROUP representing Catholic Priests in Ireland has warned against "grossly irresponsible" calls from some for public Masses to be reinstated.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) described demands for churches to be kept open and public Masses resumed during the coronavirus crisis as "self-serving and self-interested".

In a statement it said: "In the present context, gathering people together – especially elderly people who are most at risk – is grossly irresponsible and will lead to great pain, suffering and loss of life for many individuals and families, so churches or religious groups claiming entitlement to special treatment is inappropriate and unacceptable.

"As Christians, particularly in these difficult days, we need to be selfless rather than selfish, and focused on the needs of others, (especially the elderly and vulnerable) rather than on our own 'rights'.

"At this point in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, moral responsibility trumps our individual rights."

Last week churches in the north began reopening as lockdown restrictions were eased to allow for private prayer.

Drive-in church services are also being permitted as part of Stormont's five-stage recovery plan.

Many churches are broadcasting services for their congregations via live web streams.

In the Republic, many churches voluntarily shut amid the pandemic while others have remained open for private prayer.

The ACP commended those who have planned a "careful, prudent and responsible approach" to the pandemic so far.

"An obvious danger is that groups, with real and reasonable fears around mental health, employment, business and social activities, may seek unreasonably to force their private agendas on the present careful process," it said.

"In these circumstances, leaders in Irish society – not least the leaders of the Christian churches – will be expected to give a robust and responsible example."

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