This morning, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin spoke to Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio 1 about the Church’s plan to re-open once restrictions are lifted.
Archbishop Martin said that the Church needs a large-scale plan to initiate the re-opening of church buildings and the celebration of public Masses, and this will not be as simple as placing numbers on pews.
Around 200,000 people attended Mass in the Archdiocese every Sunday prior to lockdown and due to this large movement of people, it is likely that many extra precautions will have to be put in place to ensure the safety of those attending Mass.
Some of these precautions could include congregations having to be one third of the usual size, hand sanitisers having to be placed at every entrance and a possibility of face masks for Mass goers.
When asked about the possibility of virtual Masses continuing into the future, Archbishop Diarmuid said this may be a possibility, but drew attention to the recent words of Pope Francis, and said, “While virtual Masses are very important, they are not Church, Church is about people coming together. The danger about the virtual is it can be very passive.”
Referring to the larger question of what the ‘new normal’ will entail for the Church in Ireland, Archbishop Martin said, “The question I’m asking isn’t so much about when can we have the churches open and get back to that line of business, I think we have to ask the question ‘what Church are we looking at?’ After one of the referendums I said that this was time for the Church to do a reality check, an internal reality check as to where it is. I think we have to do a second reality check now and try and see what sort of Church are we going to be, in a very changed Ireland.” Recalling a book he read last year, Archbishop said we are moving into a society where people will be “Haunted by Christ”. We will have a society both of non-believers who may feel they are struggling with questions about Jesus, feeling haunted by Christ and believers who regularly attend Mass who may actually be in need of being haunted by Christ. He emphasised that we must move towards a society were believers and non-believers have respect for one another, and learn from one another.
Specifically referring to the struggles of those who mourn the death of loved ones at this time, Archbishop Martin said, “I’m really saddened at the tragic situation that people have funerals where people just can’t come together.”
To listen back to this segment from the Today with Sarah McInerney show, click here.