By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 March, 2020
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has appealed for prayers for the country’s “brave and selfless health workers” and for the medical scientists searching for a vaccine and better treatments of Covid19 Coronavirus.
In his message for St Patrick’s Day, Archbishop Eamon Martin also prayed for the Government and public health authorities to make “wise judgements and decisions about how to limit the impact of the virus, especially on the most vulnerable”.
Archbishop Martin celebrated Mass for St Patrick’s Day at 11am in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, which was livestreamed via the cathedral’s webcam.
He said that this St Patrick’s Day, Ireland – like many parts of the world – is coming to terms with the Coronavirus and many people are anxious about what lies ahead.
“The coming weeks and months are going to bring challenges and uncertainty for all of us, as we are reminded of the fragility of human life and of our dependence on one another and on God.”
Dr Martin said the crisis is “a time for an outpouring of the works of mercy towards the sick and vulnerable, and for a spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice, compassion and charity in Ireland, and across the world”.
He added, “It’s hard for people not to be alarmed, but it’s worth remembering that we are never completely isolated or alone.”
Describing it also as a time for prayer, he urged people to pray for the virtues of patience and perseverance and for the composure to overcome any temptation to despair.
“Do your best to spread calmness – not panic; serenity – not turbulence; solidarity – not selfishness. Reach out to neighbours and relatives who may feel troubled or alone. Even a simple phone call can make a huge difference. Work to ensure that hope and compassion will prevail,” he appealed.
The Archbishop of Armagh also reminded people that in Ireland, “we have a strong tradition that God is at our side in time of trouble. It remains important to keep reminding ourselves and others in the coming days that we are never completely isolated: Christ is beside us, before us, behind us, on our right and on our left, beneath us and above us.”
Once again he reminded people of the prayer: “Dia idir sinn agus an t-olc – God between us and all harm”.
Dioceses and parish churches across the country rang their bells this morning at 11am for the the Feast of St Patrick.
In an e-mail to priests and parishes, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin explained that, “The Bishops are encouraging the bell ringing as an expression of social solidarity, an encouragement to care for one other and for all of us to be inspired and remain hopeful at this difficult time.”
The initiative was suggested by Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford & Lismore over the weekend.
Backing the initiative, Bishop Denis Nulty said he was asking churches in Kildare and Leighlin to ring their bells for three minutes at 11am.
“The ringing of the bells on our National Feast Day will serve as a call to pray in solidarity and hope in these uncertain times,” he said.
Across the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin there are no public Masses on St Patrick’s Day or next Sunday. However, 26 parishes in the diocese offer a webcam facility, while others use a parish radio.
In his statement, Bishop Nulty said, “Every crisis also offers us a moment to explore new ways of expressing our faith. The Church is not a building; it’s a community, and on this day its very much a digital online community. Over the days we will endeavour to use digital media to its full capacity.”
“The time will come, hopefully soon, when we can return to our churches and celebrate Mass but in the meantime let’s stay connected in prayerful solidarity with one another. The ringing of our church bells on St Patrick’s Day is one way of doing this.”
He also appealed to people to remember in prayer those affected by the Coronavirus and the healthcare and medical teams at the frontline protecting all from the virus and its effects.
He appealed to people to “look after yourself and one another, particularly those most vulnerable, fragile and on the edges. While the coronavirus recognises no boundaries; as people of faith neither does our love and compassion for one another.”
In the Diocese of Meath, Bishop Tom Deenihan said his diocese would join with other dioceses in ringing church bells in parishes on the Feast of St Patrick at 11am.
In his statement, Bishop Deenihan said, “Church bells call people to prayer, to pause, to mourn and to celebrate. While our Masses are now offered privately, though in many cases accessible through webcams and websites, the call to prayer is important.”
“This is a time to pray and it has been heartening over the past few days to see people coming to our churches by themselves to offer silent prayers. We are not alone and the bells are a reminder of the presence of faith and prayer in these times.”
“It is a vital that we offer prayer for and with those in our communities who are worried, suffering or vulnerable. I think particularly of those in the health care sector who are heroically addressing the current crisis and those who must make difficult decisions. Let our bells also be a sign of solidarity with them.”
“The Feast of Saint Patrick calls us to reflect on what it means to be Christian and what it means to be Irish. As someone who was isolated and tested, Patrick has something to offer our time.”
Bishop Deenihan paid tribute to those who in recent days had reached beyond themselves and reached out imaginatively and courageously to the elderly, the isolated and vulnerable in our communities.
“That is Christianity, that is what Patrick gave us, that is what we are,” he said.
He also stressed that the Church exists within society and, at this time, the Church must encourage its members to support the strategy of ‘flattening the curve’.
“Our actions over the coming days will have huge implications for the trajectory of this illness and how our hospitals cope. A basic tenet of Christianity is loving our neighbour as our self.”
“While parish communities have made the sacrifice of suspending public Masses, let us make the additional but critical sacrifice these days in terms of frequent hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowds and groups and the avoidance of handshaking. Our individual sacrifice may save others. We have an obligation to each other and the common good.”
Acknowledging that these are difficult times, Dr Deenihan offered his prayers to those who are afflicted, worried, isolated and working to alleviate this crisis.
“I pray for the doctors, nursing staff, health care workers, public officials and those in our communities who are working hard, amongst them our priests and religious, some of whom are aged themselves. Through the intercession of Saint Patrick, our prayers and our own efforts, may we be spared the worst of this pandemic.”
Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv