A priest who served the Kiltoghert parish in Leitrim and Cavan priest, Fr PJ Hughes, who was fined after he breached Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions has vowed to continue saying mass.
In a piece published in the Mullahoran and Loughduff Parish newsletter last weekend, which was later shared on the parish Facebook page, Fr Hughes said “I do not accept the negative message of our leaders who are telling us to stay away from Jesus. He is there for us in the sacraments and wants to give himself to us. Life has become burdened by restrictions, health officials telling us to wear masks and not go to the church in case we catch the virus. This has turned people against each other,” he said.
“If I wish to wear the mask that is fine, but I am not obliged to challenge others who do not wish to wear it. That is their free choice and constitutional right and it should not be taken away from them. If Christians were as determined to spread the message that Christ is our saviour as they are to challenge others for not obeying restrictions laid down by this government then we would be on the right track and truly living Lent. May we recognise God's mercy and be drawn to him rather than be obsessed by regulations and restrictions.”
All places of worship have been closed since the end of December except for private prayer and funeral services.
Fr Hughes was cautioned in November for celebrating Mass with people in attendance during Level 5 restrictions. Over the weekend the Irish Catholic Newspaper reported that Fr Hughes had been €500 for breaching the regulations.
Noting the coming Holy week Fr Hughes said “Despite the size of the church and the holy place that it is because of the presence of Jesus in the Holy Tabernacle, the church has been deemed a hot spot for the spread of the virus by the gardaí. The majority of people are healthy and able to go shopping, bring their children to school and many are working in enclosed environments.
“We are committing a grave mistake by rejecting our Lord and God Jesus Christ by staying away because government officials say we must.
“I do not accept and will not accept this demand by people who do not realise the wrong they are doing. It is our constitutional right to protest so long as it is peaceful; it is our constitutional right to practice our faith and assemble to pray together.
“For those who are afraid of catching the virus in the church then they have the free choice to stay home and live their lives as they think it best to do.
“I have been reported again and the gardaí have issued a fine because I celebrated Mass with people present. I will exercise my constitutional right even though people are complaining, even though I am not obeying my bishop when I go against his advice. We can’t just reject Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,” he noted in conclusion.
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