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A request for easing of restrictions to have a “meaningful” Holy Week has been made by the Catholic Church to the Irish Government.

Currently under Level 5 restrictions, religious services are held online with places of worship open for private prayer. Funeral attendance is capped at ten people with a maximum of 6 guests allowed for a wedding.

Leeway has been sought by the Catholic Church to allow more attendees for services during Holy Week which begins on Sunday (March 28th) and concludes on Saturday April 3rd. Speaking to The Clare Echo, Bishop Fintan Monahan acknowledged that a review from the Government would not be announced until April 5th, by which Easter Weekend would be over.

“It may not be at a possibility for Holy Week, if that is the case and we expect that it is the ceremonies will just be online like they were last year which will be disappointing but at the same time it is understandable in the circumstances with the high numbers in the multiple hundreds,” Bishop Monahan conceded.

Should lower levels of restrictions be imposed, the Catholic Church are anxious that smaller gatherings be allowed in church settings. “Technically we’re not supposed to have people present until Level 2 which could be way out there in summer, they did give us an exemption at Christmas time on Level 3 and that is why we had ceremonies at Christmas. We’re hopeful but it could be May or June before any meaningful gatherings of people will be there”.

He continued, “We’re hopeful and we have appealed to have gatherings for Easter, at this stage we don’t expect we will and it will be online. We hope some leeway will be given after that for the review on April 5th”.

Bishop Monahan encouraged parishioners in the Diocese of Killaloe to link in with online to pray over Easter if their request is denied. “The vaccine is very close to being at a level where it is getting much safer and that will come eventually, better times are on the horizon, a new dawn will hopefully be there for us all, we will keep praying that it happens sooner rather than later”.

Outdoor celebrations should be considered, Clare TD Michael McNamara (IND) believed. He stated that both the Government and Church hierarchies have been cautious in their approaches to date. The situation in Ireland regarding public worship is “almost unique,” he flagged.

Deputy McNamara said “it would be outrageous if the State allowed worship of vaccinated persons” and refused entry for others. Religion offers meaning to people’s lives, “we have to accommodate what gives life meaning,” he told The Clare Echo.

As prayers are made to accelerate the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, Deputy McNamara admitted he understood why it was moving at this pace. As of the weekend, 10 percent of the population has received their first dose. “You can’t administer something you don’t have. However, I am sceptical of portraying something as a magic bullet if you don’t have the magic bullet”.

Meanwhile, the decision to fine Cavan priest Fr PJ Hughes €500 for saying mass demonstrated “a lack of clarity” in the legislation signed into law by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (FF) according to Deputy McNamara.

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