Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín TD has added his voice to those calling for the re-evaluation of the ’50 people only’ rule which applies to the re-opening of churches and places of worship.

Deputy Toibín said:

“In normal times over 1 million people attend Church Services in this state every week. Now more than ever faith and spirituality is playing an important role in so many people’s lives. We see villages joining together in prayer for those who are sick, we see the wonderful efforts of parish priests in keeping communities together, checking in on the vulnerable, the grieving, the sick and the elderly in any given parish. A few weeks ago the government guidelines were suggesting that places of worship would not reopen until the very end, that sporting events and all sorts of other gatherings would be getting the green light ahead of Mosques, Synagogues or Churches”.

Deputy Tóibín continued: Places of worship will be permitted to open next week, however the guidelines limit attendance to fifty people per religious service. What the guidelines fail to take into account is the fact that you could have a small chapel on the side of a mountain in rural Ireland that can barely hold fifty people, and you could have a cathedral in a city that can contain thousands. Churches are often by far the largest buildings in each town. The limit should reflect the capacity of those building. The limit should be in proportion to ability of people to maintain good social distancing”.

“There isn’t just the spiritual aspect of weekly worship that people are missing, it’s also the community spirit. Weekly religious service is for many a social occasion where the community can make sure everyone is in good health in mind and body. This is especially true for minority churches of recent immigrants. I have met with some of these churches. They offer much support to new the Irish who are far away from the normal supports of their home countries”.

“As one lady of 93 years put it during the week “if I cannot go to Mass, that’ll be the finishing of me!” What she was referring to was the physical routine of getting up and dressed on Sundays and making the effort of going to Mass, where she can pray and meet her friends. This frail lady is fearful that if she doesn’t get back into her routine again of getting up and dressed and physically leaving the house every Sunday, her health may deteriorate. I would call on the government to re-evaluate the situation and to use some common sense”.