Northern Ireland news

Empty pews in some churches but Masses go ahead

Fr Kevin Gillespie says the vigil Mass at St Eunan's Cathedral in Letterkenny on Saturday night, with no congregation present. Pic: Margaret McLaughlin
Mairead Holland

MASSES were said behind closed doors across several dioceses at the weekend, as the coronavirus precautions continued to bite.

Among those churches where the priest was confronted by empty pews was St Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, in the Diocese of Raphoe.

The diocese has cancelled all Masses with congregations, both on Sunday and weekdays, until March 29.

As in other parishes both north and south, parishioners were encouraged to join the service via the live webcam.

Meanwhile, at the Adoration Convent on Belfast's Falls Road, a notice attached to the gate informed worshippers that all masses have been cancelled until further notice.

It says the convent will remain closed until after Holy Week due to ongoing maintenance work.

There has been confusion among Catholics in Northern Ireland after dioceses offered conflicting advice regarding Covid-19.

Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, said a decision had been taken to suspend public masses in the archdiocese, adding that people should use webcam or radio where possible.

The Diocese of Dromore also said all public masses had been cancelled but added that those in the Newry parish would go ahead "behind closed doors" with parishioners watching online.

However, the Diocese of Clogher said: "Where normal attendance at mass on Sundays or weekdays is less than 100, there is no reason not to celebrate a public mass."

The biggest diocese, Down and Connor, said masses would "continue to be celebrated publicly until advice from the public health authorities indicates that we should determine otherwise".

Advice from the Irish Episcopal Conference suggests a 100-person limit on the number of guests who should attend a funeral, wedding or baptism at a church.


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Northern Ireland news