Silent night: Tipperary churches to remain empty over festive season

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Silent night: Tipperary churches to remain empty over festive season

St Mary's of the Rosary in Nenagh: no Christmas gathering for the faithful

Nenagh parishioners face the prospect of celebrating Christmas without being allowed attend Masses in their local churches.

A decision to not have any congregations at Mass was made in the interest of public safety due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and follows a statement from the Irish bishops outlining that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains suspended during the pandemic. However, families can attend Mass at some point during the 12 days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany.

Following that statement, the members of Nenagh Parish Pastoral Council, working with the Nenagh Parish Covid-19 management group, considered the options in relation to the celebration of Masses this Christmas.

After lengthy and often painful consideration, it was decided that the best option was to hold Christmas ceremonies in the absence of a congregation, they said on the parish website.

The decision to hold Masses online only was based on experiences to date of having to abide by the guidelines during Level 2 and Level 3 (with exceptions).

“Without the generosity of those who volunteered as stewards and cleaners we would have been unable to welcome people back into the church buildings for Mass. The reality of stewards having to restrict access to the church building was not a pleasant experience on their part nor on that of parishioners who were denied access. This situation was a regular experience, especially during weekend Masses,” they said.

The pastoral council said that the wellbeing of each person was paramount, and the restrictions existed to ensure the safety of each individual entering our church buildings.

“How to control numbers is an issue that is very sensitive to address,” they said.

Fortunately, here in Nenagh Parish we have a very good communications system in our Parish Radio and Webcam. A decision to celebrate the Masses on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and Sunday 27 December, in the absence of a congregation allows for the safety of everyone,” said the council.

While it might be reasonable to ask why not welcome the permitted number into Masses at Christmas as usual, the council said that the heartbreaking reality of this was that on Christmas Eve night and on Christmas Day, its churches were typically full to capacity.