The Corpus Christi Church at Connaught Gardens, Athlone.

Gardai break up gathering for Mass in Athlone

Video footage of an incident in which Gardai entered a Church in Athlone and asked people who had gathered for Mass to leave was widely circulated on social media in recent days.

The incident took place at the Corpus Christi Church in Connaught Gardens shortly after 10am on Sunday.

Sergeant Andrew Haran of Athlone Garda Station said on Monday that the Gardai had responded to a complaint about a gathering in breach of the current public health restrictions.

He said everyone who had been in attendance at the Church complied with the directions of the Gardai and that no fines had been issued as a result of the incident, nor were any planned.

A statement issued by the Garda press office said it "does not comment on material, including video footage, published online by third parties".

The statement added that the pandemic remained a public health crisis and that Gardai continued to "appeal to all citizens to demonstrate personal and social responsibility to comply with public health guidelines and regulations in order to continue to save lives."

The Corpus Christi Church is owned by the Priestly Society of St Pius X, a Catholic order of priests, sisters and brothers known for its adherence to the Tridentine Rite Mass, which is celebrated in Latin.

On Monday, the Westmeath Independent contacted Athlone-based priest Fr Patrick Kimball, of the Society of St Pius X, about the incident the previous day but he didn't wish to comment on it.

"We don't engage with journalists, that's just a policy for us," said Fr Kimball.

A man who gave his name as Pat, and said he had recorded the video which circulated online of Gardai inside the Church, spoke to Midlands 103 this week.

He said he travelled from Rooskey to attend the Mass in Athlone with his two sons, and that he had done so for the previous "two or three" weeks as well.

Pat said he was "outraged" by the intervention of the Gardai at the Church.

"I never thought I'd see something like that. This was like something from penal times, when we had Mass rocks," he said.

When asked how many people had been in attendance for the Mass, he said he had not counted but that there were "maybe 20 at most," gathered for it.

He added that he spoke to a woman at the Church who had come from Kilkenny to attend the Mass in Athlone, and mentioned another attendee who had come from Banagher.

During the early stages of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, the Westmeath Independent received a complaint that Latin Mass services for the public had been continuing at the Corpus Christi Church in Athlone while other Masses were suspended.

We contacted the Society of St Pius X at the time, and it declined to comment on the matter.