Dozens of Catholic parishioners in West Belfast have been blessed with holy water at their doorsteps during lockdown.
A priest at the city’s oldest Catholic church, St Mary’s, visited residents struggling to remain in good spirits during the coronavirus restrictions.
Some elderly parishioners have been remaining indoors most of the time, unable to attend Mass and with little ability to access internet sermons, Irene Leckey, who helped organise the event, said.
She said: “People were struggling with mental health because of the isolation from their families.
“Many people almost wanted the priest to hear their confessions, talking about their feelings.
“It was a relief for the people to be able to speak to the priest privately.
“As much as it was at their own door they were able to speak privately with the priest giving the blessing.”
Ms Leckey, 52, distributed bottles of blessed holy water because people were unable to visit church to pick up their own supplies.
Fr Timothy Bartlett from St Mary’s and a deacon gave blessings.
Ms Leckey added: “A lot of them were very emotional today, very grateful.
“Fr Tim wanted to keep the connection between the people and the church.”
They blessed the houses from a distance due to social distancing requirements.
Ms Leckey said: “They had realised how many people were missing the church.”
May 31 was Pentecost Sunday, the festival when many Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The church of the streets, as Pope Francis says, is the church at its bestFr Timothy Bartlett
Fr Bartlett said: “This was a community inviting us to help them – to be a church in the streets.
“That is when the church is always at it best, when it is a church of the people, driven by the people in the streets and responding to their spiritual needs.”
He said there was a sense that perhaps society was moving slowly in the right direction as pandemic restrictions eased.
“We thought it was important to respond to the people and come to them.”
He said that was what the church did during penal times in 17th century Ireland, when people worshipped in secret at Mass rocks.
“We are seeing that again essentially in times of trouble and they wanted us to help them give expression to that.
“The church of the streets, as Pope Francis says, is the church at its best.
“The church is ultimately about a church of faith rather than about individuals and this was a community inviting us to help them.”