A CORK priest has said all members of the clergy are watching with interest to see how churches in other countries succeed in reopening after the Covid-19 crisis as they wait for July 20 for a return in Ireland.
Killeagh priest Fr Tim Hazelwood, who is one of the leadership team of the Association of Catholic Priests, told The Echo that priests are concerned about the return of church services, particularly as many priests are over 70 and therefore in the cocoon group.
“At the moment, churches have been reopened for personal prayer.
“It is people who are over 70 who are coming into them.
“Most priests in parishes are waiting for guidance on reopening for Masses. They have reopened in other countries so we will take guidance from them too.
“The health of priests is very important. I know some priests who are worried.”
He said it is a difficult time for priests because they live alone and some do not have hobbies outside of their normal parish life.
“For us, not being able to do things as we did is very challenging.”
He also said that funerals have been a difficult part of their ministry.
Under the Covid-19 restrictions, just ten people are allowed to attend funeral services at present.
He said he officiated at one recent funeral where no family members were present because they were affected in different ways by the Covid-19 restrictions.
Instead, six people from the person’s local community attended the ceremony.
“Funerals are what give priests most meaning at the moment,” he said. “It is a privilege for us to be there for people at the funerals.”
Earlier this week, the Archbishop of Dublin urged churches to adhere to restrictions after a Dublin church held a Mass. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said public health policy will only work when its proposals are fully respected by all.
“This Irish church is working intensely to ensure that the reopening of churches for public worship will take place in a manner and at a time that is safe.”