Seanad debates

Monday, 22 March 2021

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:30 am

Photo of Vincent P MartinVincent P Martin (Green Party) | Oireachtas source

As Easter week approaches, I commend the initiative of Senator Keogan and others, who have arranged a Covid-compliant and safe press call tomorrow to ask the Government if it is doing enough to allow people of worship to return to their churches. Yesterday, the Bishop of Killaloe, Reverend Doctor Fintan Monahan, said people of faith have been shocked by the closure of our churches for public worship. It is scientifically proven that religion and prayers can help. Psychological studies have indicated great comfort for those who have a religious faith they can tap into in a time of crisis.Faith and the practice of faith are potentially a powerful asset in times of challenge and upheaval. There are some immense psychological benefits from religious practice, including social connection and a sense of belonging, moral compass and an enhanced sense of meaning to life. Science finds it difficult to identify the exact beneficial component at play, as one can be spiritual but not necessarily religious and religious but necessarily spiritual. Those who have a faith can get solace from it and it can help to sustain their mental health. The imposition of blanket rules is far too blunt and potentially very damaging. Blanket closures of all religious gatherings can flatten the spirit of resilience.

Some of our churches are very large buildings with high ceilings. I am not suggesting packing people into small oratories but a highly nuanced approach. At the weekend, an independent scientific advocacy group spoke about how we can tackle Covid through a nuanced approach. Are engineers assessing the space and ventilation in some of our larger churches? Why can only ten people sit in the Pro-Cathedral and pray? I remain unconvinced that the Government has explored all possible feasible options or has done all in its power to allow people to return to worship in a safe way at a time when they are clinging to their faith and when it can give them sustenance, comfort and solace. It raises the greater question as to whether the Government fully appreciates how intrinsically beneficial faith is and the strength people can take from their faith at a time of challenge and crisis.


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