Ireland is currently one of only two countries in the whole of the European Union where the Government has put a complete stop to public worship. The other member-state is Slovenia. Restrictions on worship vary from country to country, from mild in Austria, to strict in Belgium. In Belgium, dozens of Catholics gathered on Sunday in Brussels to protest the current rule that allows only 15 people to attend religious ceremonies.
The protest took place in front of the Keokelberg national basilica, the fifth biggest church in the world that could contain more than 8,000 worshippers, with the purpose of showing the absurdity of some of the current regulations.
Outside of the EU, Scotland also prohibits public worship, but England does not. In Northern Ireland, religious ceremonies are allowed by the Government, but the main Christian denominations have decided to keep their churches closed until March 5th at least.
While Slovenia currently prohibits public worship, along with Ireland, Ireland is totally alone in Europe banning it so for long, that is, for most of the past 12 months.
Various voices have criticised the ban here.
In November, businessman Declan Ganley sought leave to bring judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Health but the hearing of the case has been postponed several times now. It was heard again today (Tuesday) and adjourned yet again, this time till March 23.
Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops have also expressed to the Government their desire to return to worship soon, particularly during Lent and the Holy Week. Moreover, the archbishops have asked the number of mourners allowed to attend funerals to be increased from the present 10. Taoiseach Martin replied that the concerns raised at the meeting would be given consideration, but it seems very unlikely they will be listened to
Meanwhile, a group of independent Protestant churches called ‘Christian Voice Ireland‘ has launched a video “A Call to Reopen Churches in Ireland” featuring pastors and faithful. The group represents more than 80 Christian churches and ministries and they are asking for the Irish Government to reopen churches in Ireland with immediate effect
Here is a list of what is happening in various EU countries, based on the official EU website Re-open EU.
Public worship restrictions in selected EU countries
Banned: Ireland and Slovenia.
No specific limits but worshippers must be socially distanced etc: Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia.
Limits vary by region: Germany, Greece, Spain and Portugal.
50pc of church capacity: Italy and Estonia.
20pc of church capacity: Latvia.
Max 500 participants depending on size of building: Denmark.
Max 50 participants: Iceland.
Max 15 participants: Belgium, Bulgaria.
Max 8 participants: Sweden.
Poland: one person per 15 m2.
Malta: one person per 4 m2.
Czechia: no more than 10pc of the venue’s seated capacity.
Photo by Anna Gru on Unsplash