Take responsibility ourselves ahead of forced shutdown – Bishop Brendan Leahy

16 Mar 2020

Attending funerals if not immediate family or very close friend enters realms of recklessness

All public celebration of Masses now cancelled until further notice

Sunday, 15 March 2020:  Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that we cannot wait for a government workplace shut down and, must instead, take responsibility on ourselves.

The stakes are, he said, too high with people’s lives on the line and the health system unable to withstand the pressures. So, it is clear that we, as a public, cannot afford to be nonchalant about social gatherings any more, he said.

In the message, which he will read at the end of today’s midday Mass streamed live on http://www.limerickcathedral.com/live-stream/ from St. John’s Cathedral, Bishop Leahy says that everything about our social habits have changed and that we must rise as a people to meet this unprecedented challenge.

He also confirmed that all Masses – not just Sunday Masses – will no longer be held in public until further notice. And he appealed to people not to attend funerals unless they are immediate relatives or particularly close friends. Doing otherwise would, he added, be reckless.

“A great saying found in all religions tells us: ‘do onto others as you would want done onto you’. It’s the Golden Rule and its application is never more timely than in the face of the radical measures we have to take in stopping the spread of the Coronavirus.  What we can and ought to do is take responsibility. And we need to start by reviewing our lifestyle completely for the coming weeks in light of the Golden Rule.

“For the sake of a few weeks, we need to make sacrifices. Of course, we are afraid of cutting back in business and services; that’s completely understandable but we are at a point where it is now so evident that if we don’t take short-term sacrifice, we will hurt long term. We will hurt economically but we will hurt from a health perspective. And people will die.”

He continued:  “While the Government hasn’t yet called for a lockdown, could we not already voluntarily do our part to effectively, as much as we can, reduce our interactions with one another. Ireland is known for its good social cohesion. This is a unique, unprecedented crisis calling for us like never before to pull together to stop the virus spreading.”

While essential services need to run, it makes sense for business long term to take a few weeks of severe cutbacks, he said, to try and get rid of this virus that will otherwise cause havoc. “Closing down for a matter of weeks all non-essential services was inevitably what happened in Wuhan, China and, it would appear, won the battle for them against the Coronavirus.  If we don’t learn from this, we could pay dearly. And if we do move to a widespread work closure except for vital services, supports will need to be there for those affected – businesses and staff.”

He continued: “The message from public health authorities is that it’s best if we can stay at home most of the time. This has its challenges but we need to be creative about this and not shy away from this as a social policy for the next few weeks. Social distancing is vital. Families have been told to avoid children mixing with others. I would appeal to young adults in particular to do their part.

“It’s not easy, I know, but for the sake of the ones you love, cut right back on all social outings at this time. Loving your parents and grandparents as yourself requires this. I’ve heard of some bars having large crowds across urban Ireland, in particular, and in Limerick as well, since government stepped up its measures on Thursday. No one likes to seem a killjoy but it’s hard to understand how a policy of social distancing can really take effect if our social life is going on as normal.  The very people not respecting this are the very people that could be putting their own loved ones at risk – the elderly and others vulnerable to this virus.”

Regarding funerals, he said: “No one should attend funerals unless they are immediate relatives or very particular friends. While I do, of course, understand the desire of others to attend, to do so if not members of immediate family or a very particular friend could enter into the realms of recklessness.  And, of course, in keeping to the HSE advice, there should be no hand-shaking or hugs regardless. Social distancing must be observed now as difficult as that is. Once this crisis has passed, and it will pass, another ceremony can be arranged for all those who should not now attend.  They can then gather and pay their respects in that great Irish way and let the family know they share their loss. In the meantime, phone-calls, texts and social media can be used to convey support at this very difficult and extraordinary time.”