Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe has issued a pastoral letter for Lent 2021 in which he criticised the branding of Church services by some as non-essential.

The Bishop of Raphoe said, “It has been said by some persons in public service that ‘religion is non-essential’, that gathering for Mass and other religious services is less important than shopping or physical exercise or many other things. I know that some of you feel that, by cooperating as fully as we are with the government, we are acquiescing in the falsehood that God and his service and our public witness to him are not essential.

“Parish communities all over Ireland took the utmost care to make sure that our churches are as safe as possible, and I am grateful for the dedication of clergy and countless numbers of volunteers who made this happen.

“I want you to know that I long for our churches to be open for Mass and the sacraments as soon as possible. We need to let our political leaders know that God and our worship of Him are central to us; they are utterly essential. Pope Francis pointed out recently that; ‘the right to worship must be respected, protected and defended by civil authorities like the right to bodily and physical health’.”

Despite the temporary closure of Church services, Bishop McGuckian urges us “to see Lent as a gentle and generous invitation from God to open your heart to new beginnings, to a new and deeper walk with God in your life.”

Concluding his pastoral letter, Bishop McGuckian said, “So many of us are longing for the day – let it be soon – when we can gather together to celebrate God’s love especially in the Holy Mass. However, no matter what happens or when it happens, Lent is a great gift NOW. Let us turn to God with all our hearts.”

To read this pastoral letter in full click, here.

ENDS