The main Protestant church in Dublin has expressed “disappointment and sadness” that the Easter Rising centenary parade will force the closure of its seven churches.
With thousands expected in the city for the 1916 rebellion commemorations, the Church of Ireland are expected to cancel services on the most significant day in the Christian calendar.
Archbishop Michael Jackson said the decision – which was taken without consultation – has resulted in the affected churches seeking alternative venues for worship on Easter Day.
The city centre parishes have been informed that there will be no ready access to their churches on that morning, and that police have requested the front gates of Christ Church Cathedral remain locked throughout the day.
The parade will involve Army, Navy, Aer Corps, UN service veterans and Garda representatives, with a fly past by the Aer Corps.
In a statement, the Church of Ireland said its clergy recognised the “logistical difficulties” in catering for between 350,000 and 500,000 visitors to the city for the commemoration, but added: “This decision was made without consultation with the Dioceses and there is a considerable sense of disappointment and sadness at this but the Church’s priority now is to find a way of offering worship on the most significant day in the Christian calendar.”
The Church of Ireland statement goes on to say: “The diocesan cathedral and six parishes are located within the cordon which will be in place from 6am until 8pm on Easter Day to facilitate and secure the smooth running of the parade.
“In light of the fact that the majority of people who worship in the city centre churches do not today live within the traditional parish boundaries, the unanimous decision of the meeting was that churches which are accessible on the morning of Easter Day elsewhere in the suburbs (outside the cordon) will invite the clergy and congregations from those churches that are not accessible as a result of the restrictions to join them for worship.”
Archbishop Jackson, who would normally worship in Christ Church Cathedral on Easter morning, said he will attend the official government commemoration at the GPO despite the upset caused by the church closures.
“People will, understandably, be upset not to be able to worship in their parish churches on Easter Sunday. We are making this decision with regret but in recognition of the fact that people for whom we have a duty of care will find it very difficult to gain access to city centre churches on Easter Day,” he said.
“I look forward to celebrating Easter with the congregations of Christ Church Cathedral and Sandford Parish Church on Easter morning. After that I intend to take up the invitation of the government to attend the Ceremony of Commemoration at the GPO on what is a very significant day in the history of the state,” Archbishop Jackson added.
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin had recently expressed concerns about access to city centre masses on Easter Sunday, saying the parade would make it difficult for worshippers to get to the Pro-Cathedral.
A spokeswoman for the archbishop said on Monday the archdiocese had “been in contact with the parade organisers...to try and improve the level of access to the Pro Cathedral. That’s ongoing.”
However, the spokeswoman also told the Irish Times that currently “it is planned that Easter Sunday masses will go ahead there as normal”.
The reason given for the Catholic optimism was that the Catholic clergy live close to their city centre churches and have ready access to them, unlike the Church of Ireland churches whose clergy live elsewhere.
The centenary parade is scheduled to move off at 11.45am from Dublin Castle via Dame Street towards Westmoreland Street for a ceremony at the GPO.
At the GPO around noon, the Irish tricolour will be lowered before an army officer reads the independence proclamation and the Taoiseach lays a wreath. Following a minute’s silence in memory of those who died in the rebellion, the parade will move along O’Connell Street to Parnell Square.