Churches in Ireland reopened its doors to the public on May 10th as part of the government’s plan of easing Covid-19 restrictions.
Irish Prime Minister, Micheál Martin TD, announced that in-person religious services are now allowed with a maximum of 50 people in attendance. Under the new rules, fifty people will be allowed to attend funerals and wedding ceremonies. Only six people can join an indoor wedding reception, 15 for outdoors. By June 7th, 25 guests can attend wedding receptions.
Leaders of Christian churches welcomed the new regulations after nearly a year of social gatherings being prohibited in the country, reports The Irish Times.
Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin lauded the new regulations as a way of welcoming worshippers back “through the doors of our churches.” He reminded the faithful that the church will “continue to work within the guidelines to ensure our places of worship are as safe as possible.”
(The church will) continue to work within the guidelines to ensure our places of worship are as safe as possible. —Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin
The cleric said, “We particularly welcome the increase in numbers permitted to attend funerals as this will bring enormous comfort to those grieving the loss of loved ones.”
Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin said they are ensuring the safety of Christians from Covid-19 by cleaning and disinfecting church premises and providing hand sanitizers for worshippers.
While church leaders lauded the new restrictions, they also called on the government to never ban church worship in Ireland again. Christian leaders reminded the Irish government to uphold and protect the freedom of religion as stated in the Constitution and international human rights law. They pointed out that the church is an important part of a person’s life and society.
Christian leaders issued an open letter stating that churches were treated unfairly compared to commercial establishments that were allowed to be open to the public.
Lorcán Price, Irish barrister and legal counsel for ADF International said, “There is no clear reason as to why the Irish government prevented places of worship from opening for so long.” He argued that other European countries allowed houses of worship to recommence in-person worship while implementing safety precautions.
Meantime, Irish entrepreneur Declan Ganley, pointed out that, “There’s no clear logic as to why an airy, open church, with plenty of space, should be considered somehow more dangerous than a bicycle shop. Are people of faith really more contagious than others?”
He is hopeful that, “The courts now have the opportunity to ensure that the community is never again deprived access to a place to meet with God and minister to the suffering at a time of need.”