A priest who conducted Easter services in an almost empty Dublin cathedral has said he felt a real closeness to his unseen congregation.
Father Kieran McDermott, the administrator of St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin city centre, was joined by only a handful of choristers for Good Friday services.
It was a scene replicated at churches across Ireland as Christian clerics reached out to socially distancing parishioners through live-streamed services.
Four members of St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Girls’ Choir, standing at distance from each other, sang during the Stations Of The Cross early on Friday afternoon, with five men from the Palestrina Choir providing musical accompaniment later for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.
I don't like the word isolation, I think solitude is probably a better wordFather Kieran McDermott
Fr McDermott, who also conducted a webcam service on Thursday night, said: “Even though there was only a few people in the cathedral between the singers and musicians and so on I had a real sense of the people I couldn’t see,” he said.
“We found it to be quite prayerful.
“I don’t like the word isolation, I think solitude is probably a better word.
“There is a solitude that has been created.
“While there is physical distance, there’s a sense of being close to many, many people who are out there.
“I think for a lot of faithful Catholics, it’s a difficult time for many people, particularly older people who can be greatly upset that they can’t come to a church, but the church tries to be present to them in a different way.
“Many people now, thank God, have technology, including older people.”
Clerics have been finding novel ways of connecting with members of their congregation who are confined to their homes due to the coronavirus lockdown.
In Co Louth on Thursday, a priest was driven around the parish of Cooley in an old popemobile once used on papal visits to the UK and South Africa.
Fr Malachy Conlon blessed homes with the Blessed Sacrament on what was a six-hour trip.
St Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin were among many Church of Ireland churches that also streamed services on Good Friday.
The church has joined a worldwide Anglican initiative asking people to post a video or picture with a message on social media at 5am on Easter Sunday to mark the resurrection of Christ.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said: “We are being asked, as part of our civic duty, not to gather physically this Easter in order to comply with the measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“But this does not mean our Christian discipleship stops.
“Posting a video or an image at dawn on Easter morning to proclaim the Risen Lord is something we can do publicly to show that we are Easter people.”