Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath has sharply criticised the government’s move to restrict attendances at masses to 50 people, asking “Do we have to return to our mass rocks to be able to celebrate the Eucharist?”
Ireland has been slower than many other countries to allow centres of faith to reopen.
“The restriction of 50 people in all churches regardless of size is completely daft and it is further evidence that the government’s one size fits all approach needs to be adapted urgently,” he said.
Deputy McGrath said the capacity of churches was not being taken into consideration.
“I called on the government to change their one size fits all approach over 2 months ago as I believe that treating all businesses the same regardless of their size and capacity was illogical. This has continued however with the enforcement of a 50 person limit in all churches regardless of their size or capacity,” he said.
“Many of our churches in our towns and villages can hold a couple of hundred people easily in a normal environment. These parishes have carried out assessments of their size and capacity over the last few weeks and had prepared to set limits to match their capacity in adherence of the public health guidelines, however, these plans have been scuppered by the demand that all churches be restricted to just 50 mass goers,” said the Tipperary TD.
“People’s faith is very important to them and our priests and parishes are to be commended for the manner in which they have reached out to support their parishioners during this difficult time but it is deeply frustrating and completely daft that we can have large numbers in shopping centres, supermarkets, and soon pubs and hotels but our churches can only accommodate 50 people,” he said.
“Do we have to return to our mass rocks to be able to celebrate the Eucharist?”
“One size clearly does not fit all and our churches and other religious institutions must be allowed to set their limits according to their individual capacity or have we returned to Cromwellian times where people of faith are to be banished,” he asked.
“The celebration of the mass and Eucharist is very important to people, particularly those who have been bereaved over the last number of months. While the online and television services have been very welcome, they are not a substitute to being able to celebrate the Eucharist and other important sacraments and this decision must be reviewed urgently,” said Deputy McGrath.
He posted a photograph taken with Cllr. Richie Molloy outside St. Peter and Pauls Church Clonmel which has a normal capacity of almost 700 and which is only allowed to have 50 people attend mass. “By adhering to Public Health guidelines, this church and many others like it can reasonably accommodate over 150 mass goers at a safe social distance,” he said.