COVID 19: Archbishop says he is worried about parishes taking initiatives to ‘get First Communions done’

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has voiced concern that some are underestimating the current public health situation. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Democrat reporter
The Irish Times is today reporting that the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has expressed concern at parishes coming under pressure from parents and teachers to rush through First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.

As well as running the risk of undermining public health measures, he said: “Some efforts, often well intentioned, run the risk of reducing the administration of sacramental acts almost to the level of a supermarket in which you can drop in and ‘get the sacrament done’.

“This would reduce the Eucharist to a commodity.”

Some parents and grandparents  in Ireland have been voicing their displeasure in recent days at the cancellation of First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

However, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said:  “As the Scottish Government’s COVID restrictions on Places of Worship are more stringent than those applying to any other public spaces, there really isn’t any scope whatsoever for parishes in Scotland to take initiatives to ‘get First Communions and Confirmations done’.

“Hand sanitising, strict social distancing, mask wearing and a host of other restrictions have allowed First communion ceremonies to proceed safely and sensibly in recent weeks.”

In a statement in Dublin, Archbishop Martin said he understood the disappointment of families who had been ready to undertake these events and now find them postponed.

However, he said he was worried “about parishes taking initiatives to ‘get First Communions and Confirmations done’.

“I appreciate the pressure that families and schools can bring in parishes. We have to remember that First Communions and Confirmations are sacramental acts and must be celebrated in an appropriate liturgical context and catechetical preparation.

Infection risk

In his statement on Saturday, the archbishop said: “I am seriously concerned that many people may be underestimating the seriousness of the current situation in Dublin and indeed now in other counties. The spread of the virus has reached serious levels and constitutes a real risk of radically increased infection within the community.

While there was no evidence of the virus being spread in worshipping communities, the measures in Dublin were appropriate at this time, he said.

He also addressed what he called the “serious distortion” of a Vatican document that addressed worshipping amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I have seen reports quoting a Vatican document urging a rapid return to normal worship. Some are using that as an indication that the official line of the Holy See is to object to restrictions. This is a very serious distortion of what that document says.

“The document . . . strongly supports the application of restrictive measures and ‘painful decisions even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period’.”

He said: “Places of worship must remain closed except for private prayer as well as for limited attendance at funerals and weddings.”

The statement comes just days after a Waterford priest criticised the behaviour of some Catholics who were demanding Communion on the tongue despite Covid-19 restrictions.

Fr Liam Power, former communications officer with the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, said such people did not seem to “respect the danger this represented to others” and were a cause of “very serious embarrassment for priests, many of whom are elderly”.

He referred to an incident in a Waterford church recently when there was a “stand-off” between a parishioner and a priest”during a most sacred moment” of Mass.

In a message to clergy on Friday, Church of Ireland (Protestant) Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said the prospect of churches closing under Level 3 restrictions was “both frustrating and frightening” but he added: “It is important that we face this with resilience and hope.”

The Islamic Foundation of Ireland mosque on the South Circular Road said it was now was doing Friday prayers live on Facebook when no-one was allowed in the mosque.

Dublin’s small Jewish community said it was hoping there would be some scope this weekend to mark Rosh Hashanah, their new year. The community had been staying in close contact by phone and Zoom.

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