The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has criticised the Dublin Government for the “grossly disrespectful” treatment of its members over the manner in which the postponement of communions and confirmations was announced.
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said he was “extremely disappointed” over the “cavalier approach to communication” from the authorities.
The Primate was speaking as the Covid-19 death toll in the Republic reached 5,000. Another 448 positive cases were also confirmed yesterday.
He said he learned of the decision from a journalist tweeting Tanaiste Leo Varadkar “dismissively saying ‘oh, they’re off’” at a press briefing when asked whether the sacraments could go ahead after July 5.
He said the Irish Government’s lack of communication with the churches had resulted in “a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration and deep disappointment and indeed anger” among priests and parishioners over the decision to defer communions and confirmations.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio’s News at One, Dr Martin said: “We’ve been deluged with calls from parishes.
"I know that priests and others have been extremely disappointed by this reversal of the position that was written to us from the Taoiseach’s office at the very beginning of June, which said that in line with the gradual reopening of society, from July 5 these ceremonies could take place.
“The Department of the Taoiseach wrote to us at the beginning of June basically giving us the go-ahead to begin to plan and stressing to us that we should encourage families to make sure that they’re going to adhere to the prevailing public health advice.”
The archbishop said a huge amount of preparation had already been done with children in schools and with their families to safely hold these ceremonies.
He added they were “very important moments in the journey of faith of our young people and their families”.
He said the Church had been consistently told the reason for the deferral of these sacraments was not because of concerns over people’s safety in churches, but as a way to try to deter the kind of social gatherings and celebrations that typically follow the sacraments.