THE Bishop of Raphoe says that religious services are ‘utterly essential’ and is ‘longing’ for Churches to reopen.
Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, in his pastoral message for Lent, has taken issue with the ongoing closure of Churches for services.
Last week, in his annual speech to to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis said that ‘the right to worship must be respected, protected and defended by civil authorities like the right to bodily and physical health’.
Dr McGuckian quoted the pontiff in addressing his frustration and those of practicing Catholics at level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
“It has been said by some persons in public service that ‘religion is non-essential’, that gathering for Mass and other religious services is less important than shopping or physical exercise or many other things,” he said.
“I know that some of you feel that, by cooperating as fully as we are with the government, we are acquiescing in the falsehood that God and his service and our public witness to him are not essential. Parish communities all over Ireland took the utmost care to make sure that our churches are as safe as possible, and I am grateful for the dedication of clergy and countless numbers of volunteers who made this happen.
“I want you to know that I long for our churches to be open for Mass and the sacraments as soon as possible. We need to let our political leaders know that God and our worship of Him are central to us; they are utterly essential.”
Lent begins tomorrow for Catholics with Ash Wednesday having a very different look this year. In Clonmany, one Parish Priest arranged, with the assistance of a local shop, for ashes to be available for pick-up for distribution in homes.
The Bishop said that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was ‘utterly unique’ for every person.
He said: “For one person this time will have brought the greatest personal tragedies of a lifetime as a result of sickness and loss of lives. For another it will have meant serious limitations and loss, frustrations and disappointments. For others still it will appear as a time of challenge, refocus and even renewal of commitment in life.”
Dr McGuckian said Lent offered people a chance to ‘take stock’.
“Lent is not a dreary burden but a marvellous annual, God-given opportunity for a personal and communal shakeup,” he said.
“I invite you wherever you are at – even in the midst of tragedy – to see Lent as a gentle and generous invitation from God to open your heart to new beginnings, to a new and deeper walk with God in your life.
“I invite you to ask yourself: Am I slipping away from a sense of God? Does this long break from the public practice of the faith mean that I or those close to me are getting out of the habit? Will it simply seem not so important going forward? Could you be saying to yourself: ‘We got by without it for months on end …maybe it’s not that important?’
“Use this time of Lent to take stock. Where am I on my journey with God? What is God saying to me at this moment? Be certain that he is calling you to turn towards him and come close.”
Since the early days of the pandemic, Bishop McGuckian has been, from St Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny, leading An Tobar Domhain at 9.15pm each evening. An Tobar Domhain is broadcast on the internet and the Bishop said this had been ‘one oe my most profound experiences over this pandemic’.
He said: “To know that I was joined by the People of God from across the Diocese helped me to stay connected with God and his people. You will be most welcome to join me and the Cathedral team each evening at 9.15pm during Lent for this time of Rosary and quiet reflection on our lives.”Tags: