Most Rev Tom Deenihan, Bishop of Meath.

Confirmations unlikely before mid-May ‘at the earliest’

There is still no clarity possible on what way this year’s confirmation ceremonies are going to be arranged, in view of the ongoing lockdown, the Bishop of Meath, Most Rev Tom Deenihan has revealed.

It is likely to be “mid-May at the earliest” before the ceremonies can take place, the bishop believes.

Normally, confirmations would be happening around now, but there is still no indication from the state on when public church ceremonies can resume.

Bishop Deenihan told the Westmeath Examiner this week that like the candidates for Confirmation themselves, their parents and sponsors, he is anxious to set dates for the Diocesan Confirmation ceremonies.

To date, he revealed, many families have contacted the Diocesan Office looking for such information.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible to make plans at this time due to church and school closures and high community incidences of the virus,” he said.

The bishop said that a decision on dates will have to wait until public worship has resumed and all schools are reopened fully before setting a schedule.

“While confirmations would normally be well under way at this stage, it is certain that confirmations this year will not begin before mid-May at the earliest,” he stated.

It is understood that decisions on communions will be made at parish level.

Bilateral meeting

On Friday February 19, Taoiseach Micheál Martin met with representatives of the Catholic Church – Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop Dermot Farrell, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and Archbishop Michael Neary – to discuss the current level of Covid-19 restrictions and the church’s desire to return to worship, in particular during the season of Lent and with the approach of Holy Week and Easter.

The Archbishops, who requested the meeting, emphasised that they wish to continue supporting the public health message and to encourage all necessary measures, including vaccination, to protect health and wellbeing, especially that of the most vulnerable.

They shared their concern that life at present is particularly stressful and difficult for people to endure, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Recognising the spiritual comfort and hope that participation in public worship brings, the archbishops asked that public worship resume when an easing of restrictions is considered.

They expressed a strong desire that people might gather safely this year for the important ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter. They also requested consideration of an increase in the number of the bereaved who may attend funeral Masses.

According to a press release issued after the event, an taoiseach thanked the archbishops for their support and acknowledged the importance of the church community in people’s lives at this time of stress and worry. He outlined the ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the virus, particularly the new variants, stressing that any increase at all in mobility can have serious consequences for public health and put pressure on the health service.

In concluding, he said the concerns raised at the meeting would be given consideration. It was agreed to maintain dialogue as the situation evolves.