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Priests want readiness form withdrawn

Thursday, 18th June, 2020 10:07am

A group representing Catholic priests has said they feel uneasy and upset at the thought of being made responsible for a possible Covid-19 cluster in their parishes ahead of masses taking place again.

Such services can, Government guidelines say, take place again from 29 June.

However, this week the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which has more than 1,000 members, said that there is unhappiness among many priests about being blamed for a possible increase in Covid-19 cases in their area because of masses taking place.

An ACP statement, while welcoming the reintroduction of masses, also said: “There is unease, upset and in some cases anger among priests that they are being manipulated, and in some cases effectively being bullied into organising and carrying the can for the reintroduction of public masses and for whatever fall-out emerges in time."

The statement was issued a number of days after Irish Catholic bishops circulated a range of measures to priests, including a list of 13 specific guarantees in a ‘Church Readiness Form’ that parish priests are expected to sign off on before permission is granted for public worship.

The ACP has called for this form to be withdrawn.

It is commendable, the statement said however, that every effort is being made to ensure that the health of worshippers is not compromised through a lack of appropriate preparation although adding that religious services “will be a highly complex project to execute”.

It added: “It needs to be said that there is widespread unhappiness among priests with the expectation, indeed presumption, that they take individual responsibility for orchestrating this demanding and difficult task and by implication to accept blame for, say, a possible cluster of Covid-19 cases in their parish.

“Rather than bishops spelling out what priests are expected to do, it would make more sense if all dioceses might relieve some of the burden by, for example, centrally sourcing resources such as PPE and signage, as well as offering short training courses – possibly online – for those implementing the new regulations,” said the ACP statement.

The Catholic Communications Office was asked for comment on the ACP statement and a representative said: “In general, the experience of lockdown for priests has been both innovative and difficult. The widespread use of webcam technology provided an opportunity for online ministry and evangelisation like never before, enabling many priests to keep the light of the gospel shining during this dark period. But faith practice is also about community and the Covid-19 crisis has been tough on many priests at a personal level and especially for the many cocooning at this time.” The representative also linked the bishops' statement on the framework document for parishes to assist preparations for a return to mass which can be found at catholicbishops.ie.

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