A PARISH priest has welcomed the re-opening of churches for Mass this week.

After months of restrictions due to Covid-19 and Mass being said in empty churches and shared online, the public were given the go-ahead to attend services from Monday.

It is the latest easing of restrictions after churches re-opened for private prayer last month.

At St Peter’s Cathedral in Divis, Fr Brian Watters welcomed parishioners back by erecting a huge ‘Welcome Back’ banner.

Around 60 people were present for 10am Mass on Monday morning, much to the delight of Fr Brian.

“Over the past three months, we have been celebrating Mass every day to an empty cathedral,” he explained.

“We know people have been watching online but they have been constantly asking us when Mass is coming back

“We had around 60 people at the first Mass back on Monday morning. They all clapped at the end to show their appreciation which was nice.

“I am glad to be back delivering Mass to a congregation. It is good to have people back for the simple things you take for granted like them responding to you.

“It is still important to remember that there are people shielding. We had over 1,000 people watching online as well.”

Although services have returned, a number of restrictions remain in place and a reminder that health and safety concerns around Covid-19 have not gone away.

“All the restrictions are in place. The priest has to wear a mask, there is still two metre social distancing in place inside the church.

“The doors will be kept open for fresh air circulation and services will be kept as short as possible.

“We know what we have to do and we are pretty happy the way things are going.

“The next challenge will be the weekend Masses which will be more popular.”