THE MANNER in which the government announced the cancellation of Communions, Confirmations and Baptisms has been condemned as "grossly disrespectful" by an Irish Archbishop.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that Communions and Confirmations would not be going ahead as planned in a brief answer to a reporter's question during a press conference earlier this week, where he said the services would be "off, unfortunately".
One priest based in Waterford later said he would not be complying with the "off-the-cuff remark" by the Fine Gael leader and would carry out Confirmations as planned, and this sentiment has now been echoed by Ireland's highest Archbishop.
Eamon Martin, the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, said government communication on the matter was "very disrespectful" and there was "a lot of confusion ... a lot of frustration and deep disappointment and indeed anger".
Speaking on RTÉ News at One, Archbishop Martin said he had been "deluged with calls from parishes and I know that priests and others have been extremely disappointed" that the government's promise that Communions and other services could take place from 5 July had been reversed with no proper communication.
Children, families and schools had been doing "a huge amount of preparation", and the Catholic Church would have performed the services "extremely carefully with small numbers, keeping alert to all of the public health advice on gatherings after", he said.
Archbishop Martin expressed his frustration with the way Catholics across Ireland were told Baptisms, Communions and Confirmations would not be going ahead, saying:
"A journalist's tweet and the Tánaiste dismissively saying 'oh they're off' -- that's how we were told about the change in direction.
"The manner of communication in this case was grossly disrespectful and we are extremely disappointed."
A statement from the office of Leo Varadkar, released yesterday evening, said the Tánaiste is "very aware of the importance of these occasions. He gave an on-the-record reply to a question at a press conference. It wasn't an off the cuff remark as has been suggested."
"Unfortunately, the public health advice from our doctors and scientists is that people who are unvaccinated should avoid mixing indoors", the statement continued.
The Tánaiste's office accepted that "It may well be the case that the Government could have communicated this more effectively."
Mr Varadkar had also stated in the Dáil that The Tánaiste pointed out however that "Nphet did not recommend the cancellation of communions and confirmations because, in the view of Nphet, they were not supposed to be taking place anyway."
The government is advising that Baptisms, Communions and Confirmations should be deferred not because of the church services themselves, but because of the tradition which sees large family gatherings afterwards.
Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn said yesterday that it was too risky to assume that families would follow the rules on socialising after the church service, saying "that's not what happens in reality".
Baptisms, Communions and Confirmations have not been made illegal, however official advice from the government and public health sector advises that "they should not take place at this time".