Link to Bishops Conference Checklist
Daily Update July 9th 2020
Please follow the link below for detailed HSE Covid-19 Guidance for Religious Services. This guidance is compatible with Diocesan norms and should be followed carefully.
Daily Update Friday July 3rd 2020
Places of Worship
Detailed Covid-19 Guidance has been developed for religious services. The Cabinet Committee reviewed the guidance, which state that an assessment should be carried out for each premises to determine how many can attend within the requirements of social distancing.
The Cabinet Committee decided that where the size of the premises allows for a capacity of greater than 50 this may be permitted only where:
- Social distancing guidelines are adhered to
- The premises can be subdivided into distinct sections (cordoned or marked appropriately) of not more than 50 persons in each section
- There is a minimum of 4m between sections
- Each section having its own entrance/exit route
- There are separate arrangements for elements of the service involving close contact, e.g. the distribution of Holy Communion
- Strictly no movement of people between sections before, during or after the service
- The premises is well-ventilated.
Account must also be taken regarding the risk of congregation by people outside before and after any services, having regard to outdoor overall limits on mass gatherings and arrangements for staggered exiting after ceremonies. The use of face coverings is strongly recommended for such indoor settings.
DAILY UPDATE – 30 JUNE 2020
Numbers permitted to attend public worship: Up to this moment, the maximum number authorised to be present for any Church service is 50 people. This number is still in force and is not discretional. The number 50 includes all those who are present, including celebrant, cantor, readers, ministers of the Eucharist and stewards.
I am well aware of the difficulty this brings within large Churches, and I have made my concern known publicly. Contacts are in place to address these problems but as yet no decision has been reached.
I must however make it clear that any disregard for this cap of 50 people or disregard of social distancing norms could prejudice the possibility of change. Going it alone could well damage the good of all.
Numbers permitted to be present at funeral liturgies: the maximum number permitted to be present at a funeral liturgy has been raised to 50 people, where they can be accommodated with all social distancing measures applied. This means that in small Churches the number may be less than 50.
The numbers who can attend in cemeteries and crematoria will depend on local cemetery authorities.
Social distancing and not touching surfaces must be respected. This involves not embracing the family of the deceased, not touching coffins and not gathering outside Churches without social distancing.
People who are recommended to “cocoon”: I have already drawn attention to the basic principles of cocooning. They involve a balance between individual judgement and social responsibility:
“It is recognized that you have the right to exercise your own judgement as to the extent to which you consider the cocooning guidance appropriate for you. However, older people (aged 70 years and over) and those with pre-existing chronic conditions have been found to be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection and are most likely to experience severe consequences from infection so it is still recommended that you remain cocooned for your safety”.
In the earlier phases of the Roadmap, it was explicitly mentioned that those cocooning could leave their homes for exercise only, but attendance at religious services was explicitly excluded. The latest norms for Phase 3 have changed that advice which now reads:
“Other activities such as religious services, attending libraries and museums are also becoming available and you may wish to attend. However, it is important that you take the necessary precautions regarding physical distancing, hand washing and face covering to reduce your risk of infection”.
Again this involves the balance between individual judgment and social responsibility. It is not a generalized dispensation from the guidance. Individuals must examine how their decisions may affect others and indeed endanger their own health. Priests should take advice before making any decision. It is not simply a question of personal yearning. Priests over 70 who celebrate Mass should abstain from any face-to-face contact such as the distribution of Holy Communion.
Parishes that have returned their checklists: the vast majority of parishes have returned their checklists regarding their preparation for possible reopening for public worship. I would ask the few remaining parishes to return their checklists so that we can reassure all our faithful of our common commitment.
Tuesday 30th June
UPDATE – 26 JUNE 2020
I had an online meeting this afternoon with the Secretary General to the Government about the discussion at and the decisions taken by yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Public Health authorities were against making any exception for Churches from the maximum number of 50 at indoor gatherings. They had specific concerns about Churches: these included the problem of access and exit from Churches and especially in car parks; they felt that the larger of any gathering, the greater the risk; they referred to examples from overseas where outbreaks occurred around Church gatherings; they were concerned about the possibility of community singing fostering the spread of droplets.
The Cabinet was anxious to widen the possibilities for Churches but was not prepared simply to lay aside the view of the CMO.
The result is that the number of 50 remains the norm for Churches at this moment.
The Government has however initiated a process whereby the norms of the HSE and those of the Churches would be examined and positions of agreement identified. The intention of the Government was to complete this process in the course of the coming week. It is hoped that an agreement could be reached which would permit removing the cap of 50, if wider health advice is followed. There was a recognition that the needs of the Catholic Church were different to those of smaller denominations where congregations were generally smaller.
It was felt that a new incoming government would follow the same path as was decided yesterday.
Any further recommendation would however have to be submitted once again to the CMO and there is no guarantee that he would accept the conclusion.
In practice this means that our parishes will have to observe the number of 50 people present at any function for the moment and the hope is that before next weekend, when Sunday Mass reopens, some flexibility will have emerged.
Checklists: I have already received and accepted Checklists from a very large number of parishes and in the past hours I have received many more. Some parishes have decided that they are not prepared to re-open just yet. I am very grateful for all the effort that has been put into place over the past weeks. The reopening of Churches for public worship will be a great moment in Church life and an enhancement to priests in their ministry after a difficult time.
In the light of the concerns expressed by the public health authorities it is important that in these early days we do all we can to manage scrupulously the measures for personal and public safety of our congregations.
DAILY UPDATE – 25 JUNE 2020
Public health norms: at the moment of writing these notes, the revised public health norms for the next Phase of the Roadmap have not been finalised and published. Tomorrow morning I will send out detailed information about any new norms regarding the numbers permitted to attend in Church for public worship.
Return checklists: Please return all parish check lists by tomorrow Friday at the latest, so that approval can be granted or observation made. We have only a very short time before 29 June.
It is important that we maintain consensus on what we want to achieve and earn public support. Those who feel they can go it alone will put the commitment of the majority at risk.
I would ask that you inform me also in cases where a parish has decided not to reopen Churches on 29 June.
Communion for the sick and housebound: there will be many elderly or vulnerable people who will not be able to attend Mass when Churches reopen or who may be fearful.
We should not overlook the possibility, while respected public health norms, of having communion brought to them by our extraordinary ministers or, when considered prudent, by a close family member who lives with them.
Thursday 25 June 2020
DAILY UPDATE – 24 JUNE 2020
What should we be doing over the next few days: In the first place, we should be finalising our communications strategy within each parish to inform parishioners of our arrangements for the reopening of Churches for public worship. I am very happy with the responses that I am receiving from parishes. These responses show a very large degree of consensus on what has to be done and on the level of preparation that exists. This has been a mammoth task for parishes and I ask you to express my thanks to the many who have worked on this preparation.
People will need specific information about the times of Masses and on the fact that attendance will be limited. We should remind people that the Sunday obligation is suspended and people may fulfil their obligation by attending Mass on any day of the week. We should remind people that they may choose to attend Mass on a day other than Sunday. Webcam transmissions should continue and those unable to attend Mass should be informed of this service that has been such a vital one.
Attention should be given before re-opening to a general cleansing of Churches that have remained underused over the past months.
Is there a generalised cap on attendance at Mass? At the moment the generalised cap of 50 people attending any religious service is the norm.
However the government has announced that it is examining the possibility of moving to a solution that looks at proportionality with the size of a Church. This is currently being examined by the public health authorities and there is a Cabinet meeting tomorrow Thursday. Further guidance may be available either tomorrow or on Friday.
For any changed policy to be effective, each parish will have already worked out the maximum number that their Church can hold with safety regulations and social distancing in place. This number should be made public and the number should be displayed at the entry doors to a Church.
We should be prudent with numbers in the early days to allow us time to get some experience of managing numbers. Each parish must however be clear about its responsibility to guarantee that numbers are respected.
Larger numbers become more difficult to manage and could indeed increase the risk of contagion, especially as people leave the Church or in car parks where social distancing could easily break down.
Reception of Holy Communion: each parish should have clear guidance on whether the faithful should process to the altar to receive Holy Communion or whether ministers should distribute Holy Communion by moving the aisle. I do not favour the idea of people being called row by row to come for Holy Communion. This inevitably leads to people who really do not want to receive Holy Communion feeling obliged to come forward.
Holy Communion should be received within the celebration of the Eucharist. It is an integral part of the celebration of Eucharist. Holy Communion should be distributed at the appropriate moment within the liturgy and not outside or after Mass.
Questions still being examined by the public health authorities: The public health authorities are still examining the question of the numbers who may attend funerals. There is the fear that as restrictions become looser, that very large numbers could present for funerals.
The Church of Ireland guidance includes maintaining lists for possible contact purposes of all those who attend a Church service. This would be more difficult for our Churches with large attendance. It is not happening in shopping centres, but will be obligatory for restaurants. Government guidance has yet to be provided.
What happens if someone takes ill in a Church building? : our diocesan guidance has not dealt with this in detail. Each parish should consider having a designated room, to which admission is restricted, and to which a person could be transferred if they feel ill or begin to suspect that they may have the virus. The room would remain isolated unto health officials could attend.
Deacons: Deacons exercise a specific role in the liturgy. They should read the Gospel, rather than the celebrant or any other priest present. They could make brief announcements concerning the conducting of the liturgy and arrangements for Holy Communion. They should for the moment, not be present to assist at the altar.
As is have said on a number of occasions, norms are necessary but they are never just an end in themselves. We cannot auto-dispense ourselves from respecting norms that are there to protect people from a very harsh virus. However, we should not end up so entangled with norm-making that we overlook the fact that we are returning to the richness of celebrating Eucharist and the sacraments and to nourishing God’s people with the word of God. People should feel welcome and not frightened. We should feel encouraged in our ministry and service to renew a commitment to building faith communities in a complicated world to be communities where the love of God revealed to in Jesus Christ is witnessed to with renewed commitment.
Finally, I am aware that there are still many questions to which it is not possible to give definitive answers while we await clearer government guidance. As soon as such guidance becomes available I will let you know.
Wednesday 24 June 2020
DAILY UPDATE – 20 JUNE 2020
Over the past few weeks, parishes have placed a huge investment, both in energy and financial resources, into preparing our Churches to be ready for the reopening of public worship on 29 June.
Our people have shown great patience in scrupulously respecting the restrictions on attendance at public worship. Priests and parishes have shown creativity in reaching out by online means of transmitting Mass and providing spiritual nourishment and prayer. Our people have equally been looking forward to being able to join fully in congregational worship. This is something that is very important for their spiritual life and personal well being and it is indeed effectively their right.
It is obviously disappointing that with the reopening for public worship there is a blanket restriction to the participation of a maximum of 50 in these first weeks. You will know that I have already expressed my view that in this initial period we should be patient and to allow the new situation to settle down. I feel that this is wise and I believe that many of our Mass-goers will themselves be cautious in attending larger gatherings of people.
However, it seems strange that in a Church with a capacity of 1,500 people which has been scrupulously fitted out for conformity with social distancing and with clear indications about movement and interaction of people within Church, that only 50 people might be present, while we all see a situation in which large retail outlets brimming with people.
I hope that it will be possible to come to a more reasonable and responsible situation in which numbers permitted to attend Mass could be proportionate to the size of each Church. The numbers would not be very large. In some cases, it is not just a question of the limitation to 50 people in a large parish Church, but this would effectively mean that only 50 people out of a parish of over 10,000 might be able to attend.
For the moment, we are obliged to follow the public health norms. It may be possible to hold additional Masses on Sundays and to continue normally with weekday Masses where numbers are not normally large.
In preparing for Confirmation in this interim period, it is important to ensure that for the moment only 50 people should be present in Churches, even if this means limiting the number of candidates to probably no more than ten families.
Saturday 20 June
Framework Document for a Return to the Public Celebration of Mass and the Sacraments
DAILY UPDATE – 18 JUNE 2020
I am grateful to those parishes that have already returned their Check List for return to Public Worship. I know that in most parishes preparations are well under way. There is no doubt but that this preparation is challenging for some parishes. What is important to remember is that these preparations and restrictions are not an end in themselves. The dominant theme in our reflections now must be to rejoice in the fact that we are moving towards renewal in our liturgical and parish life.
We must be attentive to the natural fear and apprehension that some people may have. We can apply the health and safety measures and at the same time show clearly that we rejoice that the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments is an opportunity to receive new graces and support for our lives, consolation for those who have been bereaved and hope for those who are experiencing economic hardship and challenges to their health and wellbeing.
We should find ways of showing support and making a special welcome those who have lost loved ones during the crisis.
What should we be doing in these final days?
- We should be informing parishioners of the timetable of reopening and of the times of Masses.
- We should also be giving indications of the numbers that our Church can accommodate and suggest that people attend Mass on weekdays and not just as on Sundays.
- We should be informing those involved about arrangements for the celebration of Confirmation from mid-July onwards and arrangements to manage the numbers at each ceremony
- We should be looking to carry out on the days immediately before reopening a thorough cleaning of Churches that may not have been open for some time. There are some specialised firms that can provide that service on a commercial basis. In some cases, a parish team could undertake that process.
Look after yourself: Priests have undergone a difficult time over these past weeks. This takes its toll even if we do not always realise it. There is no doubt that priests feel a special responsibility for everything that takes place in their parish. However, the priest cannot nor should not attempt to do all himself.
We are fortunate in our parishes that there are many lay people more than willing to play their part and provide support to their priests. Working together, priest and people, will be the way forward in the years to come and it is important to build up a relationship of trust. Priests should also look after themselves and look after on another. Days off, attending to personal interests, physical exercise, spiritual growth are all-important.
Some of you will have taken part in the on line survey being planned by Father Hugh Lagan. In case you have not seen this, I attach a way of taking part. The survey will provide useful ideas for the future.
People ask me about the position of priests over 70 and those with underlying medical conditions. Those of us over 70 and with underlying medical conditions are not exempt from the overall norms. There are no specific exemptions for priests over 70. The fundamental public health advice is that advice anyone over 70 or with an underlying condition should continue to remain at home. At the moment they may meet outside their home with small groups of up to 6 people. Let me quote the general advice:
If you are over 70 years of age or have an underlying medical condition listed above, you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19.
Cocooning is a practice used to protect those over 70 and those extremely medically vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.
It is recognised that you have the right to exercise your own judgement as to the extent to which you consider the cocooning guidance appropriate for you. However, older people (aged 70 years and over) and those with pre-existing chronic conditions have been found to be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection and are most likely to experience severe consequences from infection so it is still recommended that you remain cocooned for your safety. Should you wish to visit someone, receive visitors in your home, visit shops, and engage in other outdoor activities, you should continue to strictly adhere to the public health and social distancing guidance.
The fact that it is recognised that each individual can make his or her own judgement does not mean that we can simply dispense ourselves from the norms. The responsibility to observe the norm is a very serious obligation to ourselves and to those around you. We are being asked to take measures to protect others, and that is a serious Christian responsibility. Priests should seriously reflect and take advice before undertaking any public ministry. No priest over 70 should feel obliged to undertake ministry. Any such ministry should be rare and only in circumstances that are considered essential. It is not simply about personally wanting to return to our ministry. Close contact and above all face-to-face contact should be avoided (this might include the administration of Holy Communion). Social distancing and hand hygiene should be scrupulously respected. Visiting vulnerable people in their homes should to be avoided. Staying at home is still the basic advice.
June 18th 2020
Framework Document for a Return to the Public Celebration of Mass and the Sacraments
DAILY UPDATE – 16 JUNE 2020
The question of the celebration this year of the Sacrament of Confirmation is uppermost in the thoughts and plans of many parishes. Families are anxious to have specific dates.
At the moment, Confirmation is linked largely to Sixth Class in Catholic primary schools, although in the Archdiocese of Dublin there is now a very large number of Catholic children who do not attend Catholic schools and are prepared for the Sacraments by a catechist chosen by parents in cooperation with the parish.
As the year progresses, it is going to be increasingly difficult to contact families about Confirmation. I have already suggested that parishes should be sure to have up-to-date lists of the names and addresses of parents who have applied for their children to be confirmed so that they can be contacted in the weeks and months ahead. This year, August may become a high point for family holidays and some children, catechists and teachers may not be readily available.
It will not be possible to hold the traditional large Confirmations for each parish or school. Indeed, with whatever social distancing norms are in place at the time, the numbers who will be able to attend an individual Confirmation ceremony will be reduced and this means that a series of separate ceremonies will have to be planned. In some cases this number may be larger than one would at first imagine. This will happen at a time when we are already suggesting that people be encouraged to attend weekday rather than just Sunday Mass. This will constitute a considerable burden on some parishes. Teams of volunteers – linked for example with “You shall be my witnesses” – will be needed to organise and support liturgies. Although it is highly desirable that Confirmation be celebrated within Mass, it may take place outside Mass.
At the moment, there is considerable difference of opinion among priests about the best time to celebrate Confirmations and about how to manage numbers and there are many requests for guidance.
At their recent meeting, the Irish Bishops proposed that Confirmations should begin “late in the summer”. I am not anxious to impose a one- size-fits-all procedure for all parishes and I know that some flexibility is needed. We do however need a period of time after 29 June, when Churches reopen for public worship, to observe how the situation is evolving and allow the new reality settle in. Confirmations should not begin before the middle of July and should where possible should be completed by Mid-October.
Personally I do not feel that rushing Confirmations just in order to get them done will be the best experience for the children involved. Confirmation is an important milestone in a child’s faith life and it should be an experience the child will remember for life. Preparation events, like Ceremonies of Light or Retreat Days, are important elements in the spiritual formation of candidates and ought not to be simply laid aside this year in order to “get confirmations done”.
Each Parish will plan and carry out the administration of Confirmation. It should be remembered that a priest can “validly celebrate confirmation only by way of a special grant from the competent authority” (Canon 882, #1). This authorization – which will be willingly granted by me – must be requested for each ceremony. A single application should be made through the Chancellery listing all the dates for which delegation is requested.
While social distancing allows households who live together to be seated alongside each other in a Church bench, it would not be correct to identify such a group simply as one person. Social distancing requires also that the overall numbers attending in Church must be manageable in terms of the Framework norms. For some time in the future, there will be limitations on large indoor gatherings.
How might we limit attendance? Some suggest limiting the number to the parents, one sponsor and the candidate. Others suggest a specific number per family. We should not overlook the fact that confirmation is a family occasion, especially for grandparents.
In the future, the celebration of confirmation will be very much the responsibility of each parish and not simply of the school. The current pandemic will be an interesting occasion for us to come to understand exactly the level of responsibility that will be falling on parishes in the future and the need to build up teams of volunteer catechists in each parish.
I am open to any suggestions or requests that individual parishes may wish to bring up. As we gain some experience it may be necessary to be more prescriptive.
DAILY UPDATE – Monday 15 JUNE 2020
You will find below the Check List that each parish should complete and return at the latest early next week. Where it is not possible to ensure the measures indicated, then you should wait until this is possible before opening. Failure to respect public health norms could have consequences for your insurance cover.
Some of the preparations are onerous. I believe that there is a willingness on the part of parish communities to provide support to their priests in this regard. The Diocesan Finance Secretariat has already provided indications about bulk buying of resources. In the next few days, I hope to provide some more concrete support to assist with local training. The Diocesan Finance Secretariat will provide more detailed suggestions regarding secure means for receiving contributions.
Cooperation between Churches in the same grouping or neighbouring parishes would be helpful in publicising a roster of Mass times throughout the week to reduce the risk of too many people presenting at any one time.
In all our communications we must require full respect for norms. The norms however should not blind us from what is more important: our overall attitude should be one of joyful anticipation of our parish community being able to begin a new moment in the faith life and renewal of our parishes.
Monday 15 June 2020
Archdiocese of Dublin – Checklist for Parishes
Each parish needs to be able to stand over that all the necessary pre-opening tasks have been completed. If not, this may have implications regarding your insurance coverage. If your church is not ready, then wait until you are fully ready before opening. It may not be possible for all Churches to reopen.
Please return this completed and signed form to the Dublin Diocese Liturgy Resource Centre, Holy Cross Diocesan Centre, Clonliffe Road, Dublin, Dublin 3 D03 P2E7 or via return e-mail before you begin the public celebration of the Eucharist and other Sacraments.
Church of _____________________________________
|Standard Required||Yes / No|
|We have established a “Return to Church” steering group, to plan, provide training, oversee and monitor the reopening process.|
|We have identified, trained and assigned specific responsibilities to a team of stewards|
|We have identified and trained a team of volunteer
church cleaners and we have established clear indications regarding the cleansing of sacred vessels and finger towels.
|We have identified the optimum number who may be present in each Church for any celebration. This number will be communicated widely.|
|We have marked out the seating to promote physical distancing supported by appropriate signage|
|We have made known ways to encourage Mass attendance not just on Sundays, and have adopted a policy to follow where more people present for Mass than the optimal number.|
|We have established separate entrance and exit doors that can be regularly sanitised and where needed propped open.|
|We have laid down ground markings outside the entrance to the Church, and indicating a directional system inside the Church and a return way to and on return from Holy Communion.|
|We have agreed norms for access to sacristies and other rooms and have approved appropriate norms regarding Church toilets.|
|We have established a way for Holy Communion to be safely brought to the sick and those who choose to continue to follow Mass via parish online, parish webcam, radio or television.|
|We have planned and prepared a secure means for receiving contributions without the need to pass bags or baskets|
|We have developed an area suitable for the Sacrament of Reconciliation|
Signed: _______________________ PP/Adm. Date: / /2020
Approved: ___________________ Archbishop of Dublin / /2020
Archbishop Martin’s DAILY UPDATE – 14 JUNE 2020
Feast of Corpus Christi
While parishes are putting much effort into the preparation of Church buildings for their reopening for public worship on 29 June, we also have to begin the wider reflection on the future of Church life for the months to come.
In the short term, we have to reflect on the celebration of the Eucharist in the current phase of safe distancing. One of the essential dimensions of the Mass is that of gathering and coming together as a faith community. At the Eucharistic Congress in 2012, we celebrated the Eucharist as Communion with Christ and Communion with one another. Watching the televised transmission of Mass in other countries, including that of Pope Francis this morning, it is obvious that safe distancing makes a feeling of communion and community more difficult. In these early days, liturgies will have to be celebrated with care.
In the first case it would be helpful to remember those in the parish who have died since public worship was suspended, either through the Coronavirus or otherwise. They could be remembered in special prayers or lists of those who died could be placed in a prominent place.
Distancing could also lead to a deeper reflection on silence in the liturgy. It might even be the occasion to ask people to remain silent for a period before Mass begins in order to create a sense of prayerfulness.
It is advisable that ceremonies should not be prolonged unnecessarily. Homilies should be short and unnecessary interruptions reduced. All this will require attention to detail and a parish liturgy team could provide help.
There is no reason not to involve deacons, readers, cantors or Eucharistic ministers, once they fulfil the health conditions regarding safe distancing and face covering.
In these early weeks, there will be many who will not be able to or who may not wish to come to Church. Each parish should reflect on how Holy Communion can be brought to them in a worthy and prayerful manner. Holy Communion is not a commodity to be just delivered. The Church has a long tradition of bringing the Eucharist to the sick directly from the Eucharistic celebration. A short prayer service will be provided in the next few days to assist in this regard. The Irish Bishops have serious reservations regarding “drive in” Masses or Holy Communion Services.
In the longer term, as has been a challenge for some time, parishes must find ways to become focal points for faith formation of people of all ages, especially for our young people. We will have the opportunity to put this into practice as we prepare for the Confirmation of young people, who in many cases will have already left primary school. I have asked Donal Harrington and the Catechetical Team to prepare supports for parishes and the Bishops Conference will provide three videos to help in the final preparation for Confirmation.
Pope Francis has constantly stressed that while it is important for Churches to be open so that believers can gather, it is equally important that people go out through the same doors and bear witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ to the society in which we live. Crosscare is intensifying its services especially of food to a growing number of people.
These difficult days have shown a great willingness of people to look out for and reach out to those who need a helping hand. Each parish should be alert to the growing challenge of loneliness, isolation and stress being felt and look at ways they can help build community.
Yesterday Pope Francis announced Stretch forth your hand to the poor as the theme for the World Day of the Poor to be held on 15 November next. The text is taken from the book of Sirach and Pope Francis observes that “now is a good time to recover the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world” and that “prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable.”
Sunday 14 June 2020
DAILY UPDATE – 12 JUNE 2020
After my update yesterday, I have been asked to provide more information regarding the plan which each parish is to prepare and send to me.
We are working on a simple check list which will be sent out early next week and which asks each parish to confirm that certain tasks have been undertaken.
It is important to remember that each parish needs to be able to stand over what task have been completed. If not, this may have implications regarding insurance coverage.
I have also been asked about the possibility of priests over 70 in good health resuming active ministry. It will be necessary to await ongoing advice on public health policy as regards “cocooning” as society opens.
An important yet delicate task for each parish to consider how to manage situations in which more people present for Mass than the Church is authorised to accommodate. In some cases, outdoor loudspeakers could transmit Mass to those who remain outside, and they could also be ministered to at Communion time. Each parish need to find ways of communicating to parishioners from Sunday 21st June at the latest that attendance will be limited and to encourage people to attend on weekdays and not just Sundays.
Today I would like to provide some advice about physical preparation of Churches and signage.
Outside the Church: The doors of Churches should carry a sign that indicates the maximum number of people that a Church can contain under save distancing norms. A similar notice should appear at sacristies indicating the number of people who may be present in the sacristy at any given time.
Ground level markings outside Church entrances should indicate save distancing positions for queuing and overflow attendance.
There should be an indication of which doors are entry only and which exit only. Entrance doors should also carry a notice regarding hand sanitizer.
Inside the Church: A sufficient number of hand sanitizers should be present at each entrance. The number of sanitizers should be sufficient to facilitate a reasonable free flow and not cause undue delay.
A sign on each bench should indicate where people should kneel and a warning to keep the required distance. At the moment, the required distance is 2 meters. This may change, but until any change is announced, we must observe the current norm.
Arrows should mark the single direction in which people would be required to move on entry and towards exits.
To facilitate access to Holy Communion markings should indicate how to maintain correct distance while queuing. In addition to commercially provided signs, simple tapes could be used as markers.
Where adequate sanitation cannot be guaranteed in toilets, they should remain out of use.
Chairs should be provided as far as possible in the Sanctuary area for Ministers of the Word, Ministers of Holy Communion, Cantors and the Deacon. Where space in the Sanctuary is limited then space in nearby seats should be reserved, as there should be no processions.
Friday June 12th 2020
DAILY UPDATE – 11 JUNE 2020
I hope each day to provide an update on how parishes should be carrying out preparations for the return to Public Worship in our Churches planned for 29 June.
I know that in most parishes, preparations are well underway but it can be useful to receive reminders and check lists. With the Diocesan Liturgical Resource Centre, we are preparing a more detailed document to complement the general Framework.
- Today I would like to draw attention to building up our pastoral teams in order to be ready for the opening.
Each parish should have a core parish team to monitor and supervise progress. This core group should not be too large, but should coordinate the contribution of such people as priests, deacons, full time parish workers, sacristans, representatives of the Parish Pastoral Council and parish liturgy groups.
Its first task is to identify a clear parish plan. This should be completed by the end of next week and sent in signed copy to me.
Next, it should work out a plan to recruit volunteers who will be needed to ensure that the management of the reopened Churches functions as it should. In general volunteers will be needed for stewarding, both inside and outside the Church. Someone will have to monitor an adequate supply of materials needed, including for signage and sanitizing. Volunteers will be needed to supervise cleaning after each service.
It will be necessary to indicate the maximum number of people who can enter the Church with safe social distancing (including people with special needs). The plan should examine how to limit entry to that number and how to manage if numbers exceed what is safe.
- Unfortunately I have been receiving complaints about very large numbers attending funeral services. The government norms are that only 25 people may attend a funeral and this is limited still to relatives and very close friends and not the general public. It is important to remember that the opening of Churches on 29 June is still conditional on the progress of the virus and on our ability to monitor numbers.
Thursday, June 11th 2020
June 9th 2020
Dear Father, Dear Parishioners,
The weeks since the imposition of lockdown have been difficult weeks. We have had to impose severe restrictions on Church life that have caused suffering for all of us. Our parishes have however reacted in so many creative ways to animate Church life within the experience of lockdown and bring comfort to people. I thank all our parishes for what they have done.
Now we face a new stage. Our response has to be based on the same two actions: strict adherence to the norms of public health and renewed creativity as we embrace our congregations with a renewed enthusiasm.
The Framework Document for a Return to the Public Celebration of Mass and the Sacraments approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference, which I attach, is an important road map on that path. The document will be published later today. It was decided however that it should be sent to priests and parishes in advance.
This is a General Framework document and it will be for each diocese to put flesh on it and adapt it to local situations. There is however enough guidance in the Framework to enable each parish to move forward with the preparations which are already in many cases underway. In cooperation with the Diocesan Liturgical Resource Centre, over the next few days I will provide more detailed and specific suggestions for the Archdiocese of Dublin.
I would also be interested in hearing the views of parishes on the celebration of Confirmation and First Holy Communion in the coming months. In general, the celebration of Confirmation will be delegated to the local Parish Priest. Social distancing will mean that the numbers who will be able to attend any individual ceremony will be greatly reduced and thus will involve multiple ceremonies.
After the end of primary school term, candidates for confirmation will be moving on to secondary schools, often distant from their current parish. It is important that parishes make sure to have lists of the names and addresses of candidates so that contact can be made with their parents.
The Episcopal Conference is preparing three short videos will be available to parishes and be used as final preparation before reception of the sacraments.
Once again, I thank our parishes for what has been achieved under difficult situations. We should move forward now with enthusiasm and prudence. Be ready to open on that date which will be indicated; if you are not ready, do not open until you are; if it is not possible to fulfil the conditions, do not reopen.
Opening doors once again is just one step in the challenge of renewal. We face many new challenges and opportunities and I believe that we have learned many lessons during this lockdown which will help us face the future with hope.
9th June 2020
Statement of the Irish Catholic Bishops` Conference
on the publication of the Framework Document for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments
As we look forward in joy and hope to the re-opening of our churches for the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, we offer this Framework Document [see below] to the dioceses and parishes of Ireland. The purpose of this document is to assist priests and people in their own preparations and to help ensure that the re-opening of our churches for public worship happens in a safe and measured way. We realise that, given the rich variety of our church buildings and communities, the Framework will need to be adapted to suit differing situations on the ground. However, as our document states:
“in all circumstances the safety and health of people, ministers, and priests must be paramount. No church should be opened for public prayer or worship until satisfactory arrangements, as indicated in this Framework, have been put in place.”
This Framework has been developed in the light of extensive consultation across the dioceses of Ireland and we are very grateful to all who contributed thoughts, comments and suggestions. The document also takes cognisance of the most up-to-date public health advice and associated regulations and obligations.
At our meetings this week we have been keeping in our prayers all who have been affected by COVID-19 in our country and throughout the world. We are especially conscious of the pain and loss felt by so many grieving families. We acknowledge with immense gratitude the skill and courage of our medical professionals and carers. We appreciate deeply the prayers, sacrifice and perseverance of all our faithful. We greatly admire the efforts of the many parishioners who have generously volunteered in charitable outreach to the elderly, vulnerable and marginalised.
At the end of the month we hope to slowly and cautiously resume public worship in our churches, knowing that it can only happen in a limited way. We will still need patience, perseverance and self-sacrifice. The prescriptions contained in this Framework Document will only be effective if we have the generous support of volunteers who will help to plan, implement and manage the transition back to full parish life and the celebration of the sacraments. In this regard we appeal particularly to the younger members of our parishes. Their energy, creativity and enthusiasm are gifts that our communities need now more than ever, since some of our older generation may be unable to offer their normal help in the current circumstances.
We are also very conscious of the demands that this transition will place upon our priests, many of whom may still need to remain shielded from the virus. Together with Pastoral Councils and the support of laity, priests have risen to the challenges presented by the recent restrictions, often in innovative and creative ways, and with great generosity of spirit together with enduring commitment to the faith communities they serve. We hope that the return of communal worship will give new heart to our priests and parishes and that, in spite of the inevitable limitations to our celebrations, we may all be confirmed in faith and in our ministry.
For our families, our domestic churches, this has been a difficult time, especially in homes where the joyful celebrations of First Communion, Confirmation and other sacraments had been happily anticipated. It is our hope that in each diocese arrangements can be put in place to celebrate these sacraments as soon as practicable, albeit in ways that will be influenced by whatever restrictions may still be necessary for the protection of all.
The resumption of public worship should not mean simply going back to where we were before. We have been through testing times, but these months have opened up new possibilities for the future mission of the Church. This crisis has much to say to us about ourselves as a community of faith, about our identity and our way forward. We earnestly hope that what we have learned – as individuals, in the domestic churches of our family homes, and as ministers of Charity, Word and Sacrament – will enrich the life of our Church and increase the joy of our celebrations as the doors of our churches open slowly once more.
Framework Document for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments
This document is intended to support dioceses and parishes in their own preparations for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the sacraments and may be supplemented at diocesan level. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with return to work protocols and insurance advice. Diocesan bishops are encouraged to put in place appropriate mechanisms for the implementation and verification of the guidelines.
The guidelines provided in this document may need to be adapted in some cases, depending on factors such as the capacity and layout of churches, the size of the parish/church community, etc. However, in all circumstances the safety and health of people, ministers, and priests must be paramount. No church should be opened for public prayer or worship until satisfactory arrangements, as indicated in this Framework, have been put in place.
It is most important that people who are vulnerable or unwell, and especially those with any symptoms that might suggest Covid-19 infection, should stay at home and, if possible, participate, as now, via webcam, social media, television, or radio. The same applies to those who have been in recent contact with someone who has the virus, in accordance with public health advice.
The following steps should be undertaken in each parish to ensure that the preparations in each church are efficiently and effectively planned.
Dioceses and parishes should at all times follow the most up-to-date public health advice and associated regulations and obligations. To reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, public health advice emphasises the importance of strict adherence to physical distancing, good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and regular cleaning and sanitising of shared spaces.
- Physical (Social) Distancing
Public health authorities advise that people should maintain physical distance from each other (currently at least 2 metres). In our churches this will mean that the maximum number of people who can be accommodated for any communal prayer or liturgy will be much reduced. The demands of physical distancing will also need to be considered in relation to people entering the church and leaving it.
The following checklist is offered to assist dioceses and parishes in ensuring that physical distancing can be observed in our churches:
CONFIRM / COMMENT
- Maintenance of Hygiene
While each person has individual responsibility for following advice on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, the church environment should itself be as safe as any enclosed public space.
The following checklist is offered to assist dioceses and parishes in maintaining the standard of hygiene required in our churches at the present time.
CONFIRM / COMMENT
A return to public worship, even gradually, will be a source of great joy and hope to our parish communities. Public health considerations will, however, require some practical adjustments to the way we celebrate our liturgies. These should not in any way compromise the integrity of the liturgy and every effort should be made to support active participation and prayerful and joyful celebration.
- The following should be noted:
- The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is extended for the time being.
- Careful consideration should be given to the number of priests and other liturgical ministers that can be safely accommodated in the sanctuary, allowing for physical distancing and ease of movement.
- The sanctuary area should be arranged in such a way that those exercising a liturgical role can do so while respecting the required physical distance.
- Concelebration should be limited, and concelebrants should receive Communion under both kinds using separate chalices or by intinction.
- Deacons should continue to proclaim the Gospel and give the Homily, but caution should be exercised regarding ministering at the altar for the time being.
- Parishes are recommended to have designated places for Readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
- In the interests of physical distancing, parishes may wish, for the time being, to limit music ministry to a single cantor and a single instrumentalist.
- Altar servers should assist only when all physical distancing/hygiene considerations have been taken into account, and with careful supervision.
- Regarding processions, the simple Entrance and Recessional format is recommended at this time.
- Rather than an Offertory Procession, the gifts of bread and wine should be brought by the celebrant from a credence table, placed near the altar, which will also hold the water bowl and finger towel.
- Care should be taken to avoid the contamination of the hosts which are to be consecrated. It is recommended liturgical practice to consecrate at each Mass a sufficient number of hosts for that celebration only.
- At this time, the optional exchange of the Sign of Peace can be omitted, or offered in a manner which avoids any physical contact.
- The procession for people approaching for Holy Communion should be carefully planned. Stewards may assist if required.
- For the time being, it is recommended that Communion should not be given under both kinds, and should be received in the hand.
- Priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.
- Priests and ministers should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.
- It is advisable to provide a small table at each point of distribution with a bottle of sanitiser. This would enable the priest/minister to re-sanitise their hands if necessary during the distribution of Communion.
- Care should be taken to thoroughly clean all vessels and to change purificators and finger towels after each Mass.
- At the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, the celebrant will sign the child with the Cross without touching.
- A jug of fresh water will be blessed for the Baptism. For the time being, priests may prefer to have only one child (or children from one family) baptised in each ceremony. However, if there are a number of Baptisms in sequence, the same jug of Blessed Water could be used, but water may not be re-used from the font or basin.
- The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.
- For the Sacrament of Reconciliation, provision should be made in the body of the Church for a confessional area. Consideration should be given to the privacy of the sacrament as well as the requirements of physical distancing and hygiene.
Each Diocese should plan for the clear and effective communication of all necessary protocols and procedures to all parishes in the Diocese.