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Irish government makes U-turn on Easter closures of Dublin churches

19 February 2016


Diplomacy: the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader, Arlene Foster, with the British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, at a Church of Ireland evening of presentations and discussion to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising, at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Wednesday. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (out of picture), sat next to Mrs Foster during the debate

Diplomacy: the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader, Arlene Foster, with the British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, at a Ch...

AFTER seven Anglican churches, including the diocesan cathedral in Dublin city centre, complained that they would be unable to provide worship on Easter Day because of the Irish government’s commemoration of the Easter Rising, the State authorities performed a U-turn on Tuesday. It was their “earnest wish”, they said, to facilitate Church of Ireland worship on the most important festival in the Christian calendar, despite restrictions.

A traffic ban from 6 a.m. will prevent most worshippers from getting to their churches, and the Garda authorities have asked that the gates of Christ Church Cathedral be kept locked for the entire day.

Diocesan authorities had complained that they had not been invited to provide any input into the decisions, nor were they consulted by the State agencies about the intended restrictions.

A government statement has now offered further consultations “that will provide reassurance to the Church of Ireland that it will be possible to facilitate access by parishioners to its Easter ceremonies.

“Naturally, given the expected scale of events and of attendance by the general public on Easter Sunday, it will be necessary to put some exceptional public-safety arrangements in place.”

Clergy from the affected churches are making alternative arrangements to join other congregations outside the city-centre cordon, but at least one priest from each of the affected churches will remain on site to read the Office on Easter Day, to ensure continuity of witness.

On Monday, the diocese issued a statement outlining the problems that the commemoration ceremonies would pose.

“In order to make possible commemorations marking the centenary of the 1916 Rising,” it said, “the State has decided that no vehicular traffic will be allowed into the city centre from 6.00 am on Easter Day and has confirmed that this will be the case. Clergy of city centre parishes have been informed that there will be no ready access to their churches on that morning, and the Garda Síochána have requested that the front gates of Christ Church Cathedral remain locked for the day.

“This decision was made without consultation with the Dioceses, and there is a considerable sense of disappointment and sadness at this, but the Church’s priority now is to find a way of offering worship on the most significant day in the Christian calendar.

“The archbishop and clergy most affected by this in the parishes of the diocese in the city centre recognise the logistical difficulties in catering for between 350,000 and 500,000 visitors to the city on the day. They are also acutely aware of the health and safety issues involved in accessing the churches and the diocesan cathedral where Easter Day worship normally occurs, when such large crowds are expected to be on the streets of the city to view the parade.

“The archbishop and clergy of the inner city communities have sought to find an accommodation which facilitates the primary provision of public worship and does not cause offence or undue difficulty to the organisers of the historic parade.”

The statement noted that the diocesan cathedral and six parishes are located within the cordon which will be in place from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Easter Day, to facilitate the smooth running of the parade.

“In light of the fact that the majority of people who worship in the city-centre churches do not today live within the traditional parish boundaries, the unanimous decision of the meeting was that churches that are accessible on the morning of Easter Day elsewhere in the suburbs (outside the cordon) will invite the clergy and congregations from those churches that are not accessible as a result of the restrictions to join them for worship. This process has already begun.”

Other arrangements for worship during Holy Week across the city-centre churches, including the Easter vigil and first eucharist of Easter at Christ Church Cathedral on Holy Saturday, will not be affected.

Responding to the breakthrough, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Michael Jackson, said: “We appreciate the government’s response to the statement issued by the united dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough yesterday, on arrangements to facilitate people in inner-city parishes in their worship on Easter Day. We further appreciate the government’s wish to do all it can to facilitate people in attending their usual places of worship on Easter Day, if possible.

“Having considered the traffic restrictions which are to be put in place from 6 a.m. on Easter Day, and the difficulties which would ensue for parishioners trying to access city-centre churches, the Archbishop and affected clergy put measures in place in order to enable parishioners to worship in churches located in areas outside the cordon. We are happy to consult with the organisers of the commemoration on this matter.”

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