Re-opening churches in a Pandemic

Interview with Mattie Long by Monica Morley of Faith Alive on Mid West Radio, Sunday 10 May, about some of the issues that need to be considered before the re-opening of churches on 20 July.


Padraig McCarthy comments on statement by Church Leaders

I do not recall the statement, issued on Friday 01 May by the leaders of Churches in Ireland on church reopening, being notified to parishes, nor did I see it mentioned in any of the media.  Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing?

Did you hear of it? Not that there’s any notable advance in it, but we should know about the statement.

It doesn’t seem to be on the website of Dublin Diocese, nor of Armagh, nor of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It’s on Limerick Anglican website and on Derry and Raphoe Anglican dioceses websites. There’s reference to Northern Ireland Executive, but there’s no indication that it’s only for Northern Ireland.


Full statement:

“As leaders of main Churches in Ireland, we recognise that Christians across our land long for the day when we can all gather again inside our church buildings for fellowship and collective worship.

“We want to commend our ministers and clergy for their prayerful and creative use of various online platforms and other means that have brought encouragement, through God’s word and through prayer, to His scattered people. At the same time, we lament the fact that our congregations are unable to gather together in person for worship. We recognise, however, as we have said previously, that to be a community in the real sense of the word, means that as individuals we acknowledge our interdependence. In loving our neighbours, it is important that we all look out for one another and continue to adhere to government advice on social distancing and other measures. The current restrictions are challenging, but are for the common good and the protection of everyone across our island.

“While we all look forward to the day when we can again gather together for collective worship in our churches, we accept that at this time it would not be appropriate to consider a full return to such gatherings, apart from the limited number of people who are able to meet for funeral services. At this time, we are not calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to remove the current general restrictions on gathering together for church services, but we are asking that the issue is kept under regular review, so that when it is safe to do so there can be an easing of these restrictions.

“The issue of church buildings being permitted to open for individual visits and private prayer, where this is desired locally and can be done so safely with appropriate social distancing in place, is however a different and a separate matter. Where the medical and scientific advice indicates that this limited step is possible, we would urge the Executive to consider easing this particular restriction sooner rather than later.

“Over the past number of weeks, we have seen the vast majority of the people embracing these challenging, but very necessary, restrictions – working together for the benefit and good of all. We give thanks for this demonstration of love and concern for all in our community. As we enter into the second full month of this emergency on our island, we urge everyone to remain resolute and vigilant, encouraging one another on, so that we can come through this together.”

Rt Rev Dr William Henry

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Most Rev Eamon Martin

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Most Rev John McDowell

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Rev Sam McGuffin

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson

President of the Irish Council of Churches



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  1. Brendan Cafferty says:

    I was listening to interview with Fr.Mattie on MWR, he was excellent on the issues involved and showed very clear thinking and clarity.I think it will be a long time before we see large gatherings again, possibly not until a vaccine is discovered and that could take quite a lot of testing and trials.Funerals do present a problem and I feel more could be allowed in under supervision-possibly thirty or forty. We also need uniformity among the various dioceses.
    Progress must of necessity be measured, we saw in Germany that they began to ease restrictions and suddenly the magic figure of 1 was passed, ours hovers between 0.5 and 0.9, we must keep it that way at least.
    This is a dangerous time as people feel that with falling death rates and people infected that we must loosen things up, in fact a poll today suggests that 40% plus think that way, giving rise to unattainable expectations maybe. Angela Merkel said its easier to bring in a lock down than to end it. The statement of the leaders of the main Churches is interesting,

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    I have just listened to Mattie’s interview with Monica Morley: absolutely sound,common sense and realism which, sadly, is not universally shared.

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