Irish bishops have asked the Government to extend support for energy bills to parish centers and churches which were ignored in the 2023 Budget.
Prelates have warned that there are likely to be “drastic closures” due to rapidly rising energy costs.
In the statement of the Irish Episcopal Conference after its autumn 2022 general meeting, they welcomed financial support to families, businesses, sports organizations and voluntary organizations.
However, they highlighted the lack of assistance for community structures that are not granted aid including parish centers, community halls and church buildings.
The bishops expressed concern for those who are homeless who use churches to keep warm.
They stated: “Especially during the winter, the church buildings are frequented by the homeless and vulnerable to keep warm and to be safe. With the increase in heating costs, the numbers trying to pass part of their day in such settings can increase dramatically.
“However, the related energy costs are also rising rapidly to the point where it is difficult to see how drastic closures can be avoided,” the bishops said.
“To address this dilemma, we urge the government to make assistance available so that these vital community resources can be opened on a sustainable basis throughout this stressful period, and to offer grant support to equip such facilities to be more energy efficient in the future”.
In September The Irish Catholic reported the great concern of priests across Ireland regarding the challenges of keeping churches warm this winter.
Fr John Joe Duffy of Creeslough, Co. Donegal warned that many churches are still reeling from the effects of Covid-19, saying “it’s a struggle enough without energy prices going up”.
He added: “With prices increasing, it could lead to having to rationalize. There will be no churches that do not remain open due to the lack of availability of priests, the cost can really see the churches that have to rationalize the use .