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garda warning Priest fined €500 for celebrating mass with parishioners present

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Mass (stock image)

Mass (stock image)

Mass (stock image)

A Cavan priest has been fined €500 for celebrating mass in his local church while several people were present.

Fr PJ Hughes, the parish priest for Mullahoran and Loughduff, has been reported a number of times to gardaí over parishioners gathering for a service in his church.

Gardaí have also previously warned him that he faces prosecution but Fr Hughes has said he does not accept the Government's restrictions on religious services.

The priest has now been hit with a fine, understood to be €500, for celebrating mass with people present.

In the parish's weekly newsletter Fr Hughes wrote: "We are committing a grave mistake by rejecting our Lord and God Jesus Christ by staying away because Government officials say we must.

"I do not accept and will not accept this demand by people who do not realise the wrong they are doing.

"I have been reported again and the gardaí have issued a fine because I celebrated mass with people present."

Fr Hughes also said he will "exercise my constitutional right even though people are complaining" which includes disobeying his bishop and going against his advice.

Under current Covid-19 regulations a person can be given a fixed charge notice of €500 for organising a prohibited event outside of a home.

The current Level 5 guidelines state that places of worship remain open for private prayer and that services should be held online, while up to ten people can attend a funeral.

Fr Hughes also said that, despite the size of the church, they have been "deemed a hotspot for the spread of the virus by gardaí".

He added that believes people have the constitutional right to protest legally and to assemble for prayer, and that restrictions have "turned people against each other".

When contacted by the Irish Independent the Fr Hughes said he did not want to comment further on the matter.

He has been warned a number of times by gardaí including the threat of prosecution under Covid-19 regulations.

Last November he said that he was paid a visit by a local Sergeant, who had a file for the DPP with them, and was told he would face a fine of €2,500 and up to six months in jail if he did not close his Church.

At the time he refused to close his doors and called on the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to “apologise to the Catholic people in this country who want to practice their faith.”

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