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As pandemic fades in Ireland, uncertainty ahead of churches reopening

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As pandemic fades in Ireland, uncertainty ahead of churches reopening
An empty church

Ireland plans to allow public religious ceremonies again from Monday, in spite of confusion over how many people can attend and over how new rules will apply to places of worship.

Starting next week, a maximum of 50 people can meet indoors as part of the latest roll-back of curbs imposed in March to stem to spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ireland.

After Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, described the proposed blanket 50-person ceiling as “strange” and “disappointing.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that “a specific protocol” based on the seating capacity of places of worship “is going to be worked out” with religious authorities.

But according to a Friday report in The Irish Catholic newspaper, bureaucrats subsequently advised Varadkar’s caretaker government against the proposed exemption ahead of Micheal Martin temporarily taking over as prime minister on Saturday atop a new coalition government.

There have been 1,727 coronavirus-related deaths in Ireland, but new daily cases have dropped to between 10 and 20 for most of June.

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A total of 78 per cent of Ireland’s 4.75 million people listed themselves as Catholic when the latest census was taken in 2016.

When public worship resumes in Ireland’s Catholic churches, it will be a pared-back version of pre-pandemic ceremonies, with choirs absent and congregants largely limited to receiving communion by hand.

“The health and safety of people is paramount,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“I am hoping that as time goes on, many of these recommendations can be relaxed further,” he said, speaking on Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE.

DPA/NAN

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