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John Ahern
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John Ahern
World News

'No government has the right to close churches': Pastor holds outdoor service in Ireland despite worship ban

by Chantalle Edmunds

An Evangelical pastor has told Premier he will hold a second socially-distanced service in Phoenix Park, Dublin this weekend, despite religious services being outlawed in Ireland. 

On Sunday, Pastor John Ahern of the All Nations Church, preached in front of around 100 worshippers at the foot of the park's papal cross and said he will hold another service on Sunday 2nd May.

Health Minister Stephan Donnelly signed a regulation earlier this month making in-person services temporarily a criminal offence and only allowing religious services to take place virtually. Ireland's four Catholic archbishops, Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all-Ireland, Dermot Farrell of Dublin, Michael Neary of Tuam and Kieran O'Reilly of Cashel and Emly said they would be taking legal advice following the move which they described as "a breach of trust" and "a potential infringement of religious freedom and constitutional rights."

On Sunday, Pastor John urged those gathered to socially distance: "We are not here today to be dangerous and reckless. But how is it dangerous to stand here, but not to walk into a Tesco or an Aldi. I believe it is a human right to worship Jesus, our Lord and Saviour," Aherne told the gathered worshippers. 

"If the Gardai turn up I don't want anybody to say anything to them. We are children of God let's act like it," he said.

A Gardai car passed by but no officers approached the event.

"Ireland it's time to rise from the ashes of this season of despair," he added. "People have lost their jobs, they’ve seen their businesses closed and some may never open again. And yet you hear these glib little phrases, like, we’re all in this together, by people who are on huge money and haven’t had their money cut. And I think that is the height of hypocrisy."

"There is something sacred about public worship, and that is why no government has the right to close churches. No government has the right to say you can't gather for public worship." When they criminalised worship, the government stepped over a line. Governments do not have the right to close churches." he continued.

Following the signing of the regulation by Health Minister Stephan Donnelly, making in-person services temporarily a criminal offence, Pastor John told Premier that he'd made a decision to go back "to pastoring my people." 

"If gathering to worship is a criminal act all I can say is, I hope the government have plenty of prison space, because there's going to be a lot of ministers who will be willing to go to prison over this," he said.

The penalty for breaches of the new law are a fine or up to six months behind bars. The Irish government is set to review worship restrictions on May 4.

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