By Katie Ascough - 26 June, 2020
Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín TD, added his voice this week to those calling for the re-evaluation of the rule requiring no more than 50 people at a time to attend churches and places of worship. This rule is part of phase 3 of the Government’s plan to ease restrictions in relation to COVID-19, due to come into effect on Monday 29 June. However, it was confirmed yesterday evening (Thursday) that an exception will be made to the 50-person limit for places of worship.
Deputy Tóibín said: “In normal times over 1 million people attend church services in this state every week. Now more than ever faith and spirituality is playing an important role in so many people’s lives. We see villages joining together in prayer for those who are sick, we see the wonderful efforts of parish priests in keeping communities together, checking in on the vulnerable, the grieving, the sick and the elderly in any given parish.”
Deputy Tóibín also pointed out that, a few weeks ago, the Government had suggested that places of worship would not reopen until the very end of the phased plan to ease restrictions, and that “sporting events and all sorts of other gatherings would be getting the green light ahead of mosques, synagogues or churches”.
He continued: “Places of worship will be permitted to open next week, however the guidelines limit attendance to 50 people per religious service. What the guidelines fail to take into account is the fact that you could have a small chapel on the side of a mountain in rural Ireland that can barely hold 50 people, and you could have a cathedral in a city that can contain thousands. Churches are often by far the largest buildings in each town. The limit should reflect the capacity of those buildings. The limit should be in proportion to ability of people to maintain good social distancing …
“As one lady of 93 years put it during the week ‘If I cannot go to Mass, that’ll be the finishing of me!’ What she was referring to was the physical routine of getting up and dressed on Sundays and making the effort of going to Mass, where she can pray and meet her friends. This frail lady is fearful that if she doesn’t get back into her routine again of getting up and dressed and physically leaving the house every Sunday, her health may deteriorate. I would call on the Government to re-evaluate the situation and to use some common sense,” Deputy Tóibín concluded.