THE predicted sunny Easter break, combined with Ireland’s rising total of Covid-19 cases, has led to strict new travel bans and innovative church use of technology to bring Holy Week worship to congregations of all the four main Churches across the Island.
The latest figures from the country (at time of writing) are 5709 tested positive, 345 hospitalised, and 210 deaths.
On Tuesday, the Irish Health Minister, Simon Harris TD, signed into law new measures restricting people’s movement to within 2km of their residence, barring travel for shopping or emergencies, and giving powers to the Gardaí to fine or arrest those who break the laws. Until now, Gardaí have been operating a light-touch approach, merely turning cars around and sending people home.
Road checkpoints are to be widespread to prevent city-dwellers’ taking advantage of the expected good weather over the Easter weekend to travel to holiday homes. Popular beauty spots and beaches have been closed.
With all churches closed, clergy are using social media, including Zoom, to communicate with parishioners; and groups have been set up to worship remotely on during Holy Week and Easter Day.
The RC archdiocese of Dublin has been particularly hard hit. Nearly half its clergy are aged over 70, and are being “cocooned”.
An Easter message from the Archbishop-elect of Armagh, the Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher, and the RC Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Eamon Martin, says: “The Easter story begins in darkness, in a time of great fear, sorrow and despair. The disciples were nowhere to be seen but were hidden away behind locked doors fearing for their lives.
“That description could very easily describe the world we have been living in for the last number of weeks as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold. What once was familiar has become unfamiliar, and we are now in so many ways cut off from our normal routine and way of living. Family and friends are isolated and kept apart, with doors closed to keep out an unseen enemy. Every day we search for good news and some sort of light upon the horizon. . .
”In our present situation we have seen the light of the risen Christ shine out in the devotion and care shown by healthcare workers and others on the frontline, reaching out to help the sick; in the kindness shown by neighbour to neighbour; and in gentle and simple acts of compassion carried out by countless “Good Samaritans”.
“Despite the uncertainty, suffering and grief caused by the pandemic, the Lord is near. We must never give up hope. His spirit is with us as sons and daughters of the resurrection.”