By David Young, PA
Church services have taken place across the island of Ireland as Christians marked another Easter in lockdown.
While face-to-face services remain prohibited in the Irish Republic, the four main churches in Northern Ireland have begun a gradual return to in-person worship having voluntarily stopped as the most recent Covid-19 wave took hold in January.
Regardless of the differing positions on church attendance on either side of the border, thousands of parishioners across the island are again relying on technology to participate in Easter services remotely.
At St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, had both a physical and virtual congregation on Good Friday for a service celebrating the Lord’s Passion.
Earlier, Mr Martin expressed concern that law makers in the Irish Republic had neglected the spiritual wellbeing of the community during the pandemic.
“It’s a really difficult balancing act but we would have really hoped to have some opportunity to gather in cautious, small numbers for Holy Week and Easter, as we’re doing in Northern Ireland,” he told RTE.
“We have been having very mature and careful conversations with the government here in the North and with the public health authorities who recognise that people’s spiritual, mental and emotional health helps them with their physical health as well.”
The senior cleric highlighted the unusual position of having different restrictions in different parts of the island.
He noted the experience of one cross-border parish that was having to adopt one approach for its two churches in Northern Ireland and another for its solitary church in the Irish Republic.
“We’re really hoping for the day when across the whole island people can gather to worship safely,” said the archbishop.