UK – Catholics in the Republic of Ireland are experiencing “obvious disappointment” after the government announced public worship won’t be allowed beginning Wednesday.
The country has been seeing a surge of positive tests for COVID-19, with 517 recorded on Oct. 5. Professor Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team said this weekend the disease has been growing at a rate of 4 percent per day since June, and the country’s 14-day incidence rate is now 35 cases per 100,000 people.
On Monday, it was announced that Ireland would enter “level 3” of COVID-19 prevention for three weeks – “level 5” would be a full lockdown.
The capital Dublin has been at “level 3” for two weeks, and County Donegal for a week.
“Level 3” means public worship is banned, or as the government puts it: “Religious services will move online.” Weddings and funerals are still allowed, with a limit of 25 participants, and churches may remain open for private prayer.
However, critics point out that shops can still remain open, as well as a variety of businesses serving the public, including restaurants, hairdressers and gyms.
When the Republic of Ireland originally went into lockdown in March, public worship was suspended. Church authorities worked with the government to develop safe worship guidelines, which included hand sanitizers at entrances, one-way systems of movement, social distancing, and a limit on the number of people allowed to attend each service. Public worship re-started in June.
“There is obvious disappointment after all of the work that has gone on in parishes re-opened for public worship that the authorities have again moved to ban people attending Mass,” said Michael Kelly, the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper.
“At a time when there is no evidence that going to church increases risks more than any other activity currently permitted, Catholics are dismayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one can get a haircut or a pedicure, but it is not permitted to go to Mass,” he told.
Irish Senator Rónán Mullen said the government’s decision to stop public worship was “disappointing.”
“It is strange that there is this lack of nuance and sophistication in the governments recommendations or regulations because in all groups of society those who are attending Masses and services are probably the most compliant, and I have seen this with my own eyes,” he told .
Mullen also claimed there was a “deliberate vagueness” about if the regulations are merely advisory or actually have the force of law.
“The government just assumes Church leaders will fall in with their strongly expressed recommendation, and that has certainly happened in the Archdiocese of Dublin,” he said.
On Sept. 19, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin issued a statement about “Level 3” restrictions being imposed in the capital, saying “no matter how they may sadden us, are appropriate at this time.”
David Quinn, the director the pro-family thinktank Iona Institute, the Church hierarchy should be more vocal about keeping churches open for public worship.
“Unfortunately, the stopping of public worship again in Ireland has been met with total passivity by religious leaders,” he said.
“Every other sector of society asks health authorities for evidence when they are asked to shut down. The Churches have not. This is a failure of leadership in my view,” Quinn added.
A spokesman for the Irish bishops’ conference said he expected the present situation to be addressed in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
Quinn said the government is taking the Churches for granted because their leaders “have been so silent in response to the new restrictions.”
“Politicians apologize to sporting organizations, restaurants, hotels, when they are asked to close. The Churches aren’t mentioned at all,” he said.
Quinn also noted that only one outbreak has been associated with a place of worship out of several thousand clusters in other settings in Ireland since public worship was restarted in the country.
“No other country in Europe right now has stopped public worship. That includes countries with much higher infection rates,” he added.
Mullen noted that Massgoers are a “different cohort” than the large numbers of students who are “gathering and socializing and not maintaining social distance in university towns.”
The senator said most churchgoers in Ireland are older, and more attentive to safety measures.
“They have a more vested interest than most in maintaining social distancing and being careful. Many older people are not going out to churches, but those who are, they are doing so with great caution and care, and not just for their own safety, but for other people’s safety,” he said.
“For people of faith, the coming together of people for religious worship is not some kind of casual service, it is central to your life – it’s not just good for them, it’s good for all of society,” Mullen said. “They would not be exposing the public to any significant health risk if the churches were to continue with the current arrangement.”
Helicopter crash: French billionaire and MP Olivier Dassault dies
French President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to billionaire and conservative politician Olivier Dassault, 69, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, local time.
Mr Dassault was the eldest son of late French billionaire industrialist Serge Dassault, whose namesake Dassault Aviation builds the Rafale war planes and owns Le Figaro newspaper.
“Olivier Dassault loved France,” Mr Macron said on Twitter.
“Captain of industry, lawmaker, local elected official, reserve commander in the air force: during his life, he never ceased to serve our country, to value its assets. His sudden death is a great loss. Thoughts on his family and loved ones.”
The private helicopter crashed during the afternoon on Sunday in Normandy, where Mr Dassault had a holiday home, according to a police source.
The pilot was also killed.
A representative for the conservative Les Republicains party in France’s National Assembly since 2002, he represented the Oise area of northern France.
Mr Dassault was considered the 361st richest man in the world alongside his two brothers and sister, with wealth of about 6 billion euros ($9.29 billion) mostly inherited from his father, according to the 2020 Forbes rich list.
He stepped down from his role on the board of Dassault due to his political role to avoid any conflict of interest.
Mr Dassault, seen as the favourite of founder Marcel Dassault, was once considered favoured to succeed Serge Dassault at the head of the family holding, but that role went to former Dassault Aviation chief executive Charles Edelstenne.
“Great sadness at the news of the sudden passing of Olivier Dassault,” Valerie Pecresse, a conservative politician who is president of the Paris region, said on Twitter.
“A businessman, but also a renowned photographer, he had a passion for politics in his blood, rooted in his department of Oise. My warm thoughts to his family.”
Pope Francis raises concerns over Christian safety
Pope Francis arrived in Baghdad on Friday for a three-day visit to Iraq, undeterred by suggestions that his trip might fuel a surge in coronavirus cases, undaunted by the precarious security situation and committed to offering support to a Christian community decimated by years of war.
It’s the first trip Francis has embarked on since the pandemic swept the world and the first time a head of the Roman Catholic Church has visited the country.
The journey promises to be as rich in symbolism as it is fraught with risk.
“I am happy to travel again,” the pope said, taking off his blue surgical mask to address reporters en route to Iraq. His Alitalia flight was accompanied by U.S. aircraft from the Ayn al Asad military base after entering Iraqi airspace.
By choosing Iraq as his first destination since the pandemic began, Francis waded directly into the issues of war and peace, and poverty and religious strife, in an ancient biblical land.
“This trip is emblematic,” he said, calling it “a duty to a land martyred for many years.”
He was welcomed by a small color guard and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
The pope left the airport complex in a black BMW, his window rolled down. He waved as he passed a small group of faithful waving Iraqi and Vatican flags behind a metal fence on the side of the highway.
The pope’s vehicle was surrounded by a police motorcycle escort as he drove past miles of concrete blast walls that were put up during Iraq’s sectarian violence.
After 2003, the road was one of the most dangerous in Baghdad, with frequent roadside bombs and suicide car bombs. Those are now in the past, and palm trees planted to beautify the road greet visitors.
As he arrived at the presidential palace, the pope’s car was flanked by members of Iraqi security forces on horseback. Francis emerged from that car, limping noticeably as he made his way along a red carpet.
The pope is known to suffer from sciatica, which he told reporters in 2013 was the worst thing that had happened to him in his early days as pope.
It was the start of what promised to be an arduous journey that will take the 84-year-old pontiff to battle-scarred churches and desert pilgrimage sites.
In an area known as the cradle of civilization, the modern history of Mesopotamia — now present-day Iraq — has been scarred by lasting hardship: three decades of despotic rule, followed by nearly two decades of war and a wave of carnage unleashed by the Islamic State.
Once a rich tapestry of faiths, Iraq has been hollowed out as orthodoxies hardened. Its Jews are almost completely gone, and its Christian community grows smaller every year. About one million have fled since the 2003 United States-led invasion. An estimated 500,000 remain.
That backdrop makes the pope’s visit on Saturday to the ancient city of Ur — traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham, who is revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike — all the more powerful.
To that end, his trip carries a motto from the Gospel of Matthew: “You are all brothers.”
But the pope’s agenda also casts a spotlight on the terrible toll wrought when divisions harden and violence takes over.
On Friday evening he met with priests, bishops and others at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Just over a decade ago, the church came under assault when attackers unleashed fusillade of grenades, bullets and suicide vests. At least 58 people were killed in the assault, which was carried out by an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
It was far from the deadliest massacre in the country, where tens of thousands of Muslims have died in war and sectarian fighting, but the attack tore at the heart of the Christian community.
An image of Francis is painted on the blast walls that now ring Our Lady of Salvation.
Francis made it clear that after Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had to scuttle plans to visit the remaining Christians in the country, he would not cancel his own trip.
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