ACP Statement on Re-opening Churches for Easter

ACP Statement on Churches Re-opening for Easter

21st February 2021

The ACP supports priests and pastoral councils in ministering to people while adhering to public health guidelines during this pandemic. We commend our archbishops in seeking to engage political leadership about public worship.

Numerous priests (many elderly and not yet vaccinated) are Covid-19 frontline workers as they journey with families during sadness and bereavement.

The ACP is concerned about calls for an Easter return to community worship.

ACP members have significant misgivings about re-opening churches for Easter ceremonies, believing it to be a premature and potentially detrimental move.

The post-Christmas surge in new Covid-19 cases and the threat from Covid-19 variants represent a persuasive evidence-based platform to strongly argue against an early return to congregational worship.

Our hearts are lifted with the rollout of the vaccination programme.

Faith, science, solidarity and empathy will serve us all well in our attempts to overcome this pandemic. Meanwhile, we continue to worship ‘in spirit and in truth’.



Roy Donovan 087-2225150; Gerry O’Connor 087-2320295

Tim Hazelwood 087-1337164; John Collins 086-8046020

For verification: Liamy Mac Nally, ACP Admin Sec 087-2233220

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  1. Padraig McCarthy says:

    “We commend our archbishops in seeking to engage political leadership about public worship.”
    I agree.

    “The ACP is concerned about calls for an Easter return to community worship.”
    Rather, the ACP leadership team is concerned, but there is no procedure for consultation of all ACP members. It might imply that there was simply a call by the archbishops for return to community worship, without qualification.
    This is not the case. The government press release following the meeting says: “Recognising the huge challenges which the pandemic poses, the Archbishops emphasised that they wish to continue supporting the public health message and to encourage all necessary measures, including vaccination, to protect health and well-being, especially that of the most vulnerable.”

    “ACP members have significant misgivings about re-opening churches for Easter ceremonies, believing it to be a premature and potentially detrimental move.”
    ACP members may have a variety of views on this. I have misgivings about this statement, since it seems to imply that there are no circumstances in which re-opening churches for Easter ceremonies would not be premature and potentially detrimental. Rather, this is a question which needs to be examined and discussed in the light of changing circumstances, and conditions under which it could be considered appropriate to re-open for worship. It would be unwise to rule out the possibility.

    “Meanwhile, we continue to worship ‘in spirit and in truth’.”
    Agreed. This is an area of greater concern to me – that there has been a failure on the part of diocesan authorities to encourage worship by all in their own homes and everyday lives, apart from engagement with on-line or broadcast worship. This is just as important as worship within our church buildings, and not dependent on the presence of an ordained priest. If there have been initiatives and resources provided in this matter, I am only aware of very limited steps in this regard. In looking forward to a less clerically centred church, the circumstances of the pandemic seem to provide a God-sent opportunity.

    I write as a 77-year-old priest who has had non-Covid health concerns for most of the past year, resulting in very limited participation in helping in my parish.

  2. Adam Conroy says:

    There is no evidence that having public mass in churches, which are generally large, well ventilated, and particularly suitable to social distancing, will have any major effect on the transmission of Covid.

  3. Tony Flannery says:

    Adam (4) I’m sure you are right that opening churches won’t have a ‘major’ effect on transmission. But even a minor effect, magnified by the large number of churches, could cause significant infection among the largely elderly people who go to church nowadays. Would that risk be worth taking, do you think?

  4. Frank McManus says:

    As a parish priest who recently has been quite seriously ill with Covid and, thank God, on the road to recovery I strongly support the ACP’s approach to the question of whether or not to reopen our Churches for public worship for Easter. We must be very cautious and play our part in suppressing this pandemic. I appreciate that generally Churches are safe, provided that all safety protocols are followed at all gatherings but then there are also other facilities making similar cases. Just this morning a lady was talking to me about how unfair it was that garden centres were closed. Surely they’re every bit as safe as Tesco & ASDA. I told her that many businesses could claim the same and that if exceptions were made for one then others will demand to be allowed to reopen.

    The first reason why we should be cautious is that like every other profession and walk of life some of our colleagues have and will continue to make their own interpretations regarding. Unfortunately some of our colleagues will make their own interpretations of the restrictions. This is especially true of months memory and anniversary masses especially when these occur on Sundays but on other days also. Some priests are too sympathetic to Covid deniers and quite a few have been simply too nice to ensure protocols are adhered too in all circumstances. One outbreak can have devastating consequences and we know Covid doesn’t respect parish boundaries – my infection was ultimately traced to a major outbreak in a neighbouring parish and a few people behaving irresponsibly. There were two deaths that I know of associated with that outbreak and a number of people seriously ill.

    The second reason is solidarity with society when so many people have been called to make huge sacrifices. I know that many people miss the communal gathering and physically receiving Holy Communion. Many of our parishes may be struggling financially and in other ways as a result of the restrictions. But it’s important we too suffer some deprivation rather than trying to seek some privileges for religion. Maybe it might deepen our sense of the sacrificial love that is at the heart of the Eucharist.
    Generally clergy have been very good at reaching out to people, especially providing masses and other services via live-streaming, web-cams and social media. Mostly we have responded with concern for the common good which is at the heart of Catholic social teaching. Let us continue to do so and that when we do return to being able to physically gather as a community it will be the beginning of the journey towards complete reopening.

  5. Kay Milton McGinty says:

    Fr Tim Hazelwoods thoughts on the reopening of the churches is the voice of reason and common sense. We have got this far safely through the pandemic… surely a few more months won’t make any difference, if our faith, hope and love is strong enough within ourselves. The priests have played a blinder in supporting many bereaved families in very difficult and different times. They have adapted to celebrating Mass to an empty church, via webcam to reach out and give support to their parishioners… and they deserve great credit and gratitude for this. They have been at the coalface many times, even though they are vulnerable people too, and until they get the vaccine they must protect and care for themselves. So to quote the late Séamus Heaney… “noli timere”… happier times are on the horizon.

  6. Seamus+Ahearne says:

    Frank @6 is an excellent, sensible and comprehensive comment. My only extra and specific observation concerns Weekday (daily) Masses.

    The numbers are small. The people who usually (or used to) come, are careful and also are vulnerable. They are very aware of their fragility. But the value and need for them, to be present as a little community, is enormous. It would make a major difference to their lives. Some of that group live alone.

    All other gatherings such as Easter or Weekends are dangerous. All of us in ministry know, how sad it is, to be with families for funerals. Ten people make it really so difficult – though the reason for that is obvious. However controlled that number is; the others who appear outside of the Church, find it almost impossible to remain distant.
    Seamus Ahearne osa

  7. Pat Savage says:

    RTÉ once gain jumps to the tune of the ACP.It almost appears that the only voice on this subject is the ACP.Fr Hazelwood most certainly is entitled to his views surrounding the opening or closure of churches but does not speak for all priests or faithful in the country. It is so unreal that the priests of the ACP or those who use this forum are the ones who would be calling for their bishops/church to be more open in order that all voices can be heard. Well as a practicing member of my community does my voice, my view point, which is calling for public worships to be returned, be heard or are we just regarded as a group of strange followers?

    Main stream media such a RTÉ won’t invite that kind of voice, or priests who are opposed to the public worship being halted, on to their shows.
    Finally, yes, you’re correct, our churches need to be safe places so if the restrictions allow for the golf course or the gym or the local pub to be open this year, will you be avoiding (them) in order to keep everyone safe?

    Pat Savage

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