Anger as priest tells people to ‘get back to mass’

St Patrick’s Church, Donegal Town.

PARISHIONERS across Donegal are being encouraged to continue watching religious services through the webcam rather than returning to Mass.
The Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Alan McGuckian, has reiterated the church’s position that people who are vulnerable or unwell should stay at home and continue, if possible, to participate in the celebration of Mass via the internet, television or radio.
It follows reports that a visiting priest celebrating Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Donegal Town, last Saturday evening told parishioners to stop watching religious services through the webcam and get back to Mass.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Raphoe said that he couldn’t comment on a specific online allegation as he was unaware of the full facts, adding that the Parish Priest, Fr William Peoples, had been away last weekend and Masses covered by a visiting priest.
However he did refer to a detailed diocesan policy which he said all the priests are aware of in relation to attendance at church and the present Covid-19 guidelines. He also reminded the Christian community of the importance of working together to ensure public health is protected at all times.
“The policy of the Diocese of Raphoe was made public some weeks ago when along with the rest of the Irish church we affirmed that in all circumstances the safety and health of people, ministers, and priests must be paramount. For example, we made it clear that no church should be opened for public prayer or worship until satisfactory arrangements had been put in place.
“Again the diocese reaffirms the church’s position that until the current pandemic is past the obligation of Sunday attendance at the Eucharist does not apply. In that regard we repeat our advice: “It is most important that people who are vulnerable or unwell, and especially those with any symptoms that might suggest Covid-19 infection, should stay at home and, if possible, participate, as now, via webcam, television, or radio,” the statement from the Diocesan office read.
One parishioner, Siobhan O’Sullivan, took to Twitter last weekend saying that she was “very disappointed” to hear a priest in Donegal Town at 6pm Mass tell parishioners to stop watching through the webcam and get back to Mass.
“Is this the official position of the Raphoe Diocese during a pandemic?” she asked.
“For the last three weeks there has been far in excess of 50 people at weekend Masses. Elderly parishioners are being put under pressure to get back to church, and ‘feel the wood of the pew’. Tone deaf from this priest (not a priest of the parish),” she wrote.
“So frustrated and angry as I am sitting beside two elderly parishioners for whom the webcam has been a lifeline over the past few months and who would prefer to be in church but who are watching at home for their safety.
“Three times he told people to stop watching through the webcam. To stop and talk to people in the shop. To risk their health. @RaphoeDiocease please can you clarify if all priests are giving a similar message this weekend,” other posts from Ms O’Sullivan read.

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