Reopening churches in Ireland: finding religion again

Published on 26 June 2020 at 21:25

Churches, Mosque, Synagogues, and other places of worship in Ireland are set to reopen on June 29th with some restrictions. For the Catholic church in Ireland the association of catholic priests has called for more clarification on what they can expect their religious gatherings to look like.

In some churches across Ireland some pews have been removed to allow for social distancing, other measures some are taking up look no queueing for communion. Some tech entrepreneurs have jumped on the opportunity to offer digital booking tickets for attendance of Church.

It is hoped such ticketing will manage numbers and maintain the ability to follow guidelines. Catholic church representatives have asked for a review on the limited number of allowed attendees. There are valid criticisms of the Government’s guidelines and questions about the “fairness” of the approach taken.

A capacity of 50 people in a place of worship was touted by the Government which has changed or appears it will after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there would be a special protocol for places of worship after an interview by RTE with Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin who supports the idea of individual ticket counters to allow each church to allocate numbers according to their capacity to hold and follow guidelines.

Baptisms, funerals weddings are all to start again which some changes. All will be limited to 50 people indoors while baptisms will use ‘fresh’ water, limited capacity as in Armagh, only parents and godparents are to attend. Funerals will still follow social distance with the advice being if people feel unwell to not attend and view via video link.

That is the plan. Fair criticism can be drawn of the approach as a limit of 50 people is far less when some small to medium shopping centres can have up to and well over 100 people queuing indoors for different stores, while having an additional more than 50 in store.  Each shop has set their own policy and the guidelines are only that, guidelines as to what should be done. There is limited consequence for those who do not taken on the collective responsibility during the pandemic.

As the difference in capacity has be drawn up there is a stark contrast between the nature of the governments opening. Religion in Ireland has rich roots with it being the only of peaceful conversion with many pagan figures such as Saint Brigid being of Pagan origin and adopted into the Christian faith to smooth conversion. Religion in Ireland has evolved, and Christianity has had a very organic development. It is inherent in the Irish cultural psychic no matter what current media trends may be or a push towards secularism (a state in which government and religion are separate).Positive or negative attitudes aside the faith is present in our cultural attitudes.

 The Government has it reasons to want people to return to spending on consumer goods, long queues, big spends and those returning to those working in such areas all paying indirect taxes. The gap that the pandemic has placed on the budget needs to be filled. As the United States, the poor are now spending more on goods and services than the rich. We would wonder if in a couple of months, we will have similar data.

The church however offers a reminder that speaks to our inherent need for spirituality, the fulfilment of self. Churches and many other places of worship in their architecture and art they contain teachings and an overall aesthetic remind us that not everything should or is meant to be consumable. In times such as the pandemic there tends to be a gathering around religion as a look at European history would tell us. But whether this Religion is Judo-Christian or a fully developed and worshipped consumer society that we all must take part in to ensure our collective survival as nation has already be decided.


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