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'Poisoned chalice' Another bishop plans to defy communions ban as split within church deepens

Fr Iggy O'Donovan, a priest serving in the Glen of Aherlow in Co Tipperary, told the Herald he felt that those bishops who have chosen to ignore the advice of the public authorities and go ahead with communion and confirmation services were making "a grave error".

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Alan McGuckian

Alan McGuckian

Alan McGuckian

THE Catholic Bishop of Raphoe has become the latest church leader to defy the Government's ban on communions and confirmations and is set to recommence these sacraments in his diocese from the middle of this month.

In a letter to the priests of Raphoe, Bishop Alan McGuckian said he was aware that areas of Co Donegal, including parts of his diocese, have the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in Ireland.

He said it was "essential that we maintain the highest standards of sanitisation and social distancing at all of our ceremonies".

Dr McGuckian also appealed for any post-ceremony gatherings to be kept strictly to family pods.

The decision to recommence communion and confirmation ceremonies from Friday, August 13 followed consultation with teachers and parents, he said, and in light of the dates for the reopening of primary and secondary schools across Raphoe.

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Stock image. Photo: Lotti Fabio

Stock image. Photo: Lotti Fabio

Stock image. Photo: Lotti Fabio

However, divisions are emerging within the Church over the move by the bishops of Elphin, Clogher, Meath, Raphoe, and Waterford and Lismore to resume ceremonies.

Some priests have expressed disquiet as they believe it will put pressure on priests to hold the ceremonies and risk the health of those who are not yet vaccinated.

Fr Iggy O'Donovan, a priest serving in the Glen of Aherlow in Co Tipperary, told the Herald he felt that those bishops who have chosen to ignore the advice of the public authorities and go ahead with communion and confirmation services were making "a grave error".

He said Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been "handling a poisoned chalice" and that it was "a no-win situation" for the Fianna Fáil leader.

"At the very least he might expect co-operation from clerics like myself who constantly proclaim our 'pro-life' credentials," he said. Fr O'Donovan is serving in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly which is upholding the ban on communions and confirmations.

Separately, a parish priest in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore wrote to the Taoiseach about the ban on communions and confirmations.

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In his letter, Fr Michael Toomey, the parish priest of Ardfinnan, Ballybacon and Grange in Co Tipperary, told the Taoiseach that in light of restaurants, pubs, concert halls, theatres and stadiums now allowing more people in, "it seems that the restrictions on celebrating these sacraments in a safe and well controlled environment in the church are now dormant".

Referring to the warning by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that parishes hosting communions and confirmations are putting people's lives at risk, Fr Toomey asked the Taoiseach: "So, why are you putting lives at risk opening up other settings with less secure protocols in place?

"Packed pubs, restaurants and sports facilities, but no to sacraments. It makes no common sense at all. I know of no outbreaks (of Covid) happening in a religious setting since March 2020," he claimed.

While the Government has eased restrictions on baptisms, and the numbers at weddings will increase from 50 to 100 from Thursday, the ban on communions and confirmations continues.

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