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Padre Plea-o Catholic bishops call for vaccination of priests who minister at nursing homes

Deaths are on the rise among the clergy, with 135 priests dying between March and August last year compared to the 79 priests that died in 2019 in the same six-month period.

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Catholic Bishops have appealed to health officials to make vaccines a “matter of priority” for chaplains to nursing homes and funerals.

In a statement on Wednesday, Bishop Michael Router, who is the Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Healthcare, encouraged the support of the vaccination programmes currently in place in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“The development and provision of the vaccines is already providing reassurance for those who are most vulnerable to the virus and will help us to return to normality in terms of work, education, religious practice, and sporting and leisure activities as soon as possible,” said Bishop Router.

“We encourage all parishes and Church personnel to promote this programme and to encourage elderly parishioners, relatives and neighbours to avail of the opportunity to protect their health and the health of the whole community.”

Bishop Router also called on health officials to prioritise vaccinations for carers and priests, particularly those who preside at funerals or provide pastoral care in nursing homes.

Speaking to The Tablet, he said: “Considering that most priests are over 60, some with underlying health conditions, and are dealing with gatherings of people, however small, for funerals and weddings I think it is reasonable to ask that they be considered for vaccination as soon as possible.”

He added that many priests are worried about leaving their own bubbles and entering vulnerable settings without being vaccinated: “Many are also providing pastoral care to nursing home facilities and would feel much more confident about that if they were vaccinated.”

Deaths are on the rise among the clergy, with 135 priests dying between March and August last year compared to the 79 priests that died in 2019 in the same six-month period.

The group that is currently prioritised in the Republic of Ireland to receive the vaccine are those over 70 years of age while in Northern Ireland it is those over 65 years of age, along with others who are clinically vulnerable.

The Bishops’ Council for Healthcare praised the vaccination process for attending to the vulnerable: “We note that many people both North and South have already received the vaccine and we particularly welcome the fact that all residents and staff of nursing care facilities have been vaccinated at this stage.”

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