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'Weddings have disappeared' - Archbishops seek advice over 'illegality' of attending mass

Ireland's archbishops are seeking legal advice after attending mass and other religious services ...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.41 19 Apr 2021


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'Weddings have disappeared' -...

'Weddings have disappeared' - Archbishops seek advice over 'illegality' of attending mass

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.41 19 Apr 2021


Share this article


Ireland's archbishops are seeking legal advice after attending mass and other religious services was outlawed last week.

The religious leaders say a new statutory instrument is "a potential infringement of religious freedom and of Constitutional rights."

Archbishop Eamon Martin said in a statement: "The precise provisions are unclear and at first reading appear to be draconian, going further than the restrictions we have been cooperating with throughout the pandemic to date.

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"We shall be seeking legal counsel to advise on several questions concerning the extent of the statutory instrument".

The leaders say they are seeking an immediate meeting with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran told The Pat Kenny Show the legality of saying mass appears to have changed.

"This new statutory instrument on Friday, number 171 this year, and it's primary focus seems to say that it's a criminal offence for people to participate in a specified event with the exception of special circumstances.

"You might ask yourself 'What is a specified event?' - and a specified event is anything other than a funeral, wedding reception, a sports event or a training event.

"So it includes most of what most people do all the time, including what we routinely do in church".

And he said one event in particular seems to have been left out.

"They've told us that wedding receptions are not specified events - so you can go to a wedding reception, so the wedding itself has disappeared.

"So where we were previously allowed turn up to celebrate a marriage, there's at least a question over why was that taken out and what does it mean".

'The wrong message'

But Bishop Doran understands there is a difference between saying mass and attending one.

"I'm told that there's a difference between leading or organising an event and attending: the statutory instrument refers to 'people attending'.

"So it's a little bit confusing".

He said while he believes the new instrument is to stop people attending services against public health regulations, it is wording that counts.

"I do think, when the law is written down, obviously what's in the writing is probably what counts in court.

"I suppose one of the concerns we have, obviously, is the need to assure those who have assisted us - even in the online gatherings - that it's lawful for them to do so".

He said they want to meet Minister Donnelly for clarification.

"What I would be saying to the Minister is it's quite simply the wrong message.

"When people have generally supported the public health effort for over a year, by sacrificing what is most important to them, you don't turn round then and threaten them with penal sanctions.

"Especially at a time when we've been told if we stay with the plan until the 4th of May, we'll be back in public worship.

"So I'm asking myself why is he bringing in the stick at this stage, when the carrot has been working perfectly for the last 12 months."

Main image: Bishop Kevin Doran speaks at a Catholic bishops conference on abortion in Westmeath in 2017. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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