Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

18.32 26 Jun 2020


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Mass-goers shouldn't feel like they have to 'rush out' to gather in big numbers for services when churches reopen on Monday, according to Primate of All Ireland.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said churches will keep to a 50 person limit at least for the first few days, and there are plenty of opportunities during the week for people to attend mass.

He said parishes will be relying on the 'good sense' of people, as well as volunteers and ushers, to control crowd numbers - joking that he hopes priests "won't be needing rottweilers or anything like that".

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said places of worship would be exempt from the 50 person indoor gathering limit if certain health & safety protocols are in place.

Speaking on The Hard Shoulder, Archbishop Martin said there remains a 'certain amount of confusion' around the issue.

He explained: "The Church was of impression that as we moved towards the 29th June, that we would be able to open up our churches... with each of our parishes, priests and their parish pastoral advisers depending what was the safe number of people to go into each church building.

"Last Friday, you'll remember the Taoiseach made it very clear there should be a cap of no more than 50 people inside any building, at any time.

"We kind of encouraged the Government to take a look at that, and last night the Taoiseach said that number may be able to go above 50 if we had appropriate protocols in place."

However, he also said at the moment the 'very clear' public health advice is not to go above the number of 50, until extra measures are put in place.

He observed: "It's a bit of a disappointment, when you have a huge church that you can only put 50 people into it. But I think we're going to have to work with it, at least for the first few days after the 29th.

"It's not just 50 people gathering inside the building - it's 50 people coming in, exiting, going past each other, getting into cars... Therefore [officials are] very reluctant, I understand, to have any exceptions... for now."

'We will take our time'

The Primate of All Ireland stressed that they're still eager to get up and running again, even with smaller number of worshippers.

In terms of controlling the number of people attending mass, Archbishop Martin said that will be up to the local parish pastoral councils and COVID-19 support teams.

He noted: "People are being reasonably sensible here - I think this has been a hallmark of the Irish people, North and South.

"I would say a lot of people will probably not come out immediately... I really feel people shouldn't feel like they have to rush out, gathering in big numbers for mass. We will take our time - there are lots of opportunities during the week if they'd like to attend for mass or public worship.

"We're going to be relying on good sense of people - we'll have stewards, ushers, people on the ground... I hope we won't be needing rottweilers or anything like that.

"It might also mean that some people instead of going to mass every day, they may allow other people to come. I'm hopeful this won't go on for very long."

Main image: File photo of Archbishop Eamon Martin. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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