The Catholic Primate of all Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh has said he is confident that parishes and churches around the country will be able to reopen safely, but urged worshippers not to rush to return to services.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said he is very confident all parishes have put in place support teams to assist the priests and pastoral teams for the safe reopening of churches.

Under Phase 3 of lifting Covid-19 restrictions, religious buildings and places of worship can reopen from Monday. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Archbishop Martin said there will be a collective responsibility in parishes where people will realise they want to worship safely and maximise the use of spaces in churches to adhere to physical distancing and cleanliness.

"I'm confident that this can be done," he said.

Archbishop Martin said it will mean a lot of extra cleaning and stewarding, but there are many people volunteering to help across the country.


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He said the health and safety of people is paramount and it has been made very clear that churches should be open only if these arrangements are in place.

Larger churches could open ahead of some smaller churches, he said, in the spirit of what the Taoiseach has been saying about limiting numbers to 50 people.

Archbishop Martin said the people "do want to get back and to thank God that they have come through this and pray for those who are suffering or have died" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said people do not have to go "straight back to gathering for worshipping" and parishes are encouraging people to take their time, to hold back and for the elderly and vulnerable to come out on weekdays. 

Archbishop Martin said he hopes that a return to public worship "will give everyone a lift and inject some hope into the situation for all".

He said that partnership and social responsibility remains key.

Archbishop Martin said there is a great acceptance that changes to services have been put in place for people's own good and he is hoping that as time goes on many recommendations can be relaxed further.

He said that the large numbers of people who have tuned into mass on television or on webcams has "opened up a whole new constituency of people who are able to gather" with us to worship.