The Archdiocese of Dublin joined with Gardaí in pressing for an end to priests giving Holy Communion to parishioners after Mass.
A Dublin priest this week revealed how Gardaí stopped him from giving Holy Communion to parishioners who would visit his church after Mass.
Fr. Binoy Matthew of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Huntstown, Dublin 15 was approached by authorities after a traffic accident outside the church three weeks ago.
Gardaí, noticing parishioners coming and going in larger numbers than usual, visited the priest to raise concerns about what was drawing people to the church.
The Divine Word missionary was asked to stop offering Holy Communion to his parishioners, a decision Fr. Matthew says will have a negative impact on his congregation.
“They came through the main body of the church, received communion, and left through a side exit. There was no congregating,” he told Independent.ie.
“It was a way for us to stay in contact with our parishioners and offer them spiritual support.
“It is not as if the whole world was coming to us – it was a small group of people who carried out the correct sanitising and protocols. They didn’t stay in the church for prayers or gather in groups.
“You hear a lot about the mental health cost. This was something for a small group of people for whom receiving communion meant a lot. Every group is trying in some way to keep in contact with their core community – to care and look after them. We were trying to help our core group.
“You can have over a hundred people in a small supermarket or congregating in a queue for a takeaway coffee. But you cannot allow people to come individually to their parish to receive communion. It seems this is what the Government wants,” he said.
News of the Gardaí’s intervention was followed by a statement from the Archdiocese of Dublin, in which Archbishop Dermot Farrell’s office said priests “ought not” to distribute Holy Communion before or after Mass.
“Under current restrictions all religious services continue to take place online. In the interest of health and safety priests and parishes ought not to distribute Holy Communion before or after mass, in or outside churches,” the Archdiocese said.
“Drive-in masses are not permitted as no gatherings of people outdoors or indoors are permitted. Churches remain open for private prayer only; liturgies and devotions (exposition of the blessed sacrament, rosary, stations of the cross) can take in closed churches, online only.”
One parishioner who spoke to the media says he is frustrated that other services are open to the public, but churches cannot allow people to receive Holy Communion.
Philip Brennan said the “handing out of Holy Communion is very important to, I would imagine, a third of the Irish population.”
“When we go to receive Holy Communion in Huntstown we pass a local playground which is packed to the hilt and nothing is said about that. I don’t think that is fair.
“I am angry and disappointed that the State would go to the degree of preventing people from receiving what is a spiritual act”.