Latest Coronavirus Updates for Parishes

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REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN

ON THE CURRENT COVID 19 SITUATION

19th November 2020

 

          On Tuesday evening I took part in a Zoom meeting with the Taoiseach and a group of representatives of different faiths (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, as well as Humanist) to talk about the challenges experienced by religious bodies during the current Level 5 lockdown and about expectations for the coming months.

The Taoiseach expressed his awareness of how the current Lockdown is affecting all faiths.  He recognised that for believers participation in public worship is central. While the provision of online services is important at this moment, physical gathering for common worship belongs to the essence of the Christian and other faiths.

There was unanimous agreement on the part of all the faith representatives that if there is a return to Level 3 at the beginning of December, then there should be a rethink on the place of public worship in Level 3 provisions. The Taoiseach recognised that unanimity.

He noted that the public health authorities continually express their anxiety about large gatherings, but that they distinguish between controlled gatherings and spontaneous uncontrolled gatherings.  The gatherings for worship are controlled and monitored and the Taoiseach stressed the enormous effort made by Churches to ensure that Church buildings were safe places for worship during the pandemic. While not making definitive commitments, he showed an openness (as he had done earlier in the day in the Dail) to a re-examination the place of public worship at Level 3.  Definitive answers, he noted, will depend on government.

While the government seems to be showing an openness to move towards a modified Level 3, much will depend on what the situation is like at the beginning of December.  In a number of countries where there had been considerable progress in curbing the virus, there has been a frightening return to very high infection levels as soon as restrictions were loosened.

I think it is vital that over the next two weeks that our Churches should be leaders in society in bring super attentive to attaining to the current norms.  The way we work together over the next weeks will determine the manner in which we can properly prepare for and celebrate Christmas.  I am hearing of laxity at some funeral events, not within Church buildings, but afterwards.  It is vital at any events within Church grounds or in funeral corteges that social distancing be respected.

The faith representatives spoke of the ongoing work of Churches in addressing the concrete difficulties people face in the current stressful situation.  Faith contributes to personal and spiritual wellbeing.  The Taoiseach recognised the work of organizations like Saint Vincent de Paul, Crosscare and the charities of other faiths especially in addressing questions such as food supplies, mental health and loneliness.  I mentioned how important Advent Church collections are for the work of our charities.

We have to use Advent to prepare for how we will celebrate Christmas, both liturgically and through our care services.  Can we find ways of spreading attendance at Mass over a longer period than just Christmas night and Christmas Day?   How can we organise more Masses at Christmas, while managing necessary levels of hygiene and sanitising?  How do we reach out to people who will be lonely at Christmas? Many people living alone may not be able to travel to relatives?  How can we ensure that children can experience the mystery of Christmas as the birth of the Christ Child?   Families could be encouraged to visit the crib together.  Can we provide simple online services of religious Christmas music and stories?

At meeting of the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, there was some discussion as to how we can provide greater access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for those who wish to avail of it.  The Bishops also reminded that, when access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not readily available, people can make acts of perfect contrition in order to attain forgiveness and return fully to the state of grace.

Christmas 2020 will certainly be a very different Christmas to anything we have experienced.  We have to show that the simplicity of the Christmas message can touch hearts in any situation.

We will also have to celebrate Christmas at a time of uncertainty.  Even with the promise of more rapid access to vaccines there is no doubt that the pandemic crisis will continue well into the coming year and we shall have to find ways to live with the virus without losing hope.  This makes our demands for reopening of Churches for public worship more important not just for ourselves but for society.

Finally, as priests and as leaders in our Christian communities  we should allow ourselves the time and space to keep our own hearts open to the message of which we are the bearers and not allow our own frustration and  isolation weaken that sense of hope and meaning for which people turn to us.  Let us pray for each other.

 

+Diarmuid Martin

19th November 2020

 

 

REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN

ON THE CURRENT COVID 19 SITUATION

 9th November 2020

 

When the current pandemic broke out earlier this year, very few of us imagined that we would still be living with many restrictions months later as we prepare for Christmas.

The current Level 5 restrictions have had very serious effects on our ability to carry out normal liturgical life in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  This follows on similar restrictions that had earlier affected those parts of the diocese in counties Kildare and Laois and then in County Dublin.

The indications are that these measures are having some effect on controlling the spread of the virus, but this is not yet the case in some parts of county Dublin.  It is vital that everyone takes his or her responsibilities seriously and that we work together in curbing the virus.  None of us is to second-guess the severity of the situation.  None of us is authorised to self-exempt from the public norms.  None of us is authorised to place people’s health at risk.

Whereas it is expected that measures will be relaxed in the first weeks of December, it is not to be excluded that restrictive measures may have to be imposed again after Christmas.  It is likely and indeed understandable that the numbers of those who will be permitted to attend religious services over the Christmas period will be restricted.  Many will wish to attend Christmas Mass, though the numbers may not be huge.  Many people will still be anxious about attending any large gathering of people.

I notice in some United States dioceses that it is being suggested that a greater number of Masses be celebrated on Christmas Day.  This would require ensuring that Churches can be sanitised, numbers of those attending be monitored, and that sufficient time be allotted between each celebration.      In order to avoid people having to be turned away from Churches, the idea of some form of advanced booking might be proposed.  People might be encouraged to attend Mass on different days during Christmas week.  These are just suggestions from the US.

We should also be looking at other possibilities.  I believe that we could encourage families with their children to visit the Christmas crib for private prayer.   Each parish could provide some short prayer that could be recited on the occasion.  To foster an authentic Christian culture of Christmas, in addition to online Masses, parishes could provide online ceremonies of Christmas music and readings. These could include celebrations for and by children, while respecting current restrictions.  We could consider a simple parish Christmas greeting, to be delivered to families.

The traditional RDS Christmas Day lunch for the homeless which has been held for many years by the Knights of Saint Columbanus, cannot be held this year, but a number of central distribution points will provide take-away food for the homeless on Christmas Day.  Parishes might be able to provide some services to reach out to the homeless and the lonely on Christmas Day.  The Capuchin Day Centre has continued to provide food on a take-away basis right throughout the lockdown, even using the Church building as a possible place for the homeless to sit and eat their food.

In situations of a sharp rise in the numbers contracting the virus, the limitation of public worship can be justified.  This has been reasserted in these days in Great Britain and by French Courts.  This restriction however should be limited to the shortest period necessary. The effort of our parishes to prepare our Church buildings and to supervise attendance has been extraordinary and the level of risk in our Churches is very low.  However in addition to attendance at Mass, the questions of the movement of people and the maintenance of social distancing on arrival and departure and the presence of a high proportion of vulnerable people at Mass are considerations that the public health authorities cannot ignore.

The four Archbishops have made representation to the Taoiseach regarding reopening Churches for public worship at the earliest opportunity.  While being sympathetic to our request, the Taoiseach did not feel in a position make any definitive commitment at this moment.

It is interesting to note that Pope Francis has ceased holding his weekly General Audience in public and has noted that his Christmas liturgies will be celebrated with very limited public attendance.

One way or another, for the foreseeable future public participation at Masses will remain limited.  This is the situation in which we will have to live and carry out ministry for the coming months and possibly even longer. As I said recently, while attendance at public worship is suspended, the Christian life is not suspended.  The life of the Church must go on and must go on with renewed vigour.  Our wounded society needs the witness of authentically lived Christian lives.  We have to be creative in finding new ways of reaching out especially to young families.

Over the next few days, I hope to be able to open a dialogue on how we may be able to proceed and I would appreciate receiving your suggestions.  The Sacraments Implementation Group, established by the Council of Priests, has provided me with feedback from their Deanery Consultations with some recommendations about how we should prepare for the celebration of the First Holy Communion and Confirmation next year.  I will forward these to you soon.

I know that the current situation has challenged each one of us in our ministry and indeed in our own lives.  We need to intensify our sense of common purpose and a pastoral response to a situation we had never foreseen.  Let us remember each other in our prayers.

+Diarmuid Martin

November 9th 2020

 

 

Living with Covid-19    5 Step Plan

Religious Service Restrictions

 (updated 20.10.20)

  All Counties of Ireland move to Level 5 at midnight Wednesday 21.10.20
LEVEL Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
Religious Services Open with protective measures (eg: social distancing, one-way traffic in venue, removal of communal prayer items) for up to 50 worshippers.

 

Separate sub groups may be permitted, where premises allow for greater capacity of 50 with additional protective measures (see guidelines)

Services move online.

 

Places of worship remain open for private prayer.

Services will be held online.

Places of worship remain open for private prayer.

Services will be held online.

 

Places of worship remain open for private prayer.

Funerals Up to 50 mourners can attend

 

For full details please see

Bereavement Guidelines

(updated 02.10.20)

 

Up to 25 mourners can attend. Up to 25 mourners can attend. Up to 25 mourners can attend.
Weddings

 

(Regardless of Venue)

Up to 100 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception. Up to 50 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception. Up to 25 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception. Up to 6 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

 

 

Up to 25 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

 

 

FURTHER NOTICE CONCERNING THE PASTORAL SITUATION IN

COUNTY DUBLIN UNDER CHANGED CORONAVIRUS NORMS

Saturday 19 September 2020

          I am seriously concerned that many people may be underestimating the seriousness of the current situation in County Dublin and indeed now in other counties.  The spread of the virus has reached serious levels and constitutes a real risk of radically increased infection within the community. In many cases, the increase in numbers is due to gatherings within households and communities.

That is the reason why the public health authorities are stressing the urgent need to reduce the number of contacts that each one of us has in this period.  Reducing contacts requires a specific effort on the part of each of us to deliberately change the number of people with whom we would normally come into contact.  This is as important in the current situation as the need for face masks, social distancing and handwashing.

The need to reduce contacts and the size of gatherings is also at the root of the norms that ask us to limit public worship and close Churches.  It is true that due to the extraordinary effort of parishes in adapting Church buildings and reducing attendance, thank God, there has been no indication of the virus being spread in worshiping communities.  However, the situation today has changed and the measures introduced, no matter how they may sadden us, are appropriate at this time.

I have seen reports quoting a Vatican document urging a rapid return to normal worship.  Some are using that as an indication that the official line of the Holy See is to object to restrictions.  This is a very serious distortion of what that document says.  The document, as I quoted yesterday, strongly supports the application of restrictive measures and “painful decisions even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period”, when the need is great.

I understand the disappointment of families who had been ready for the celebration of First Communion and Confirmation and find them postponed.   Unfortunately, they cannot take place during the current period.  Places of worship must remain closed except for private prayer as well as for limited attendance at funerals and weddings.

I am also worried about parishes taking initiatives to “get First Communions and Confirmations done”.  I appreciate the pressure that families and schools can bring in parishes.  We have to remember that First Communions and Confirmations are sacramental acts and must be celebrated in an appropriate liturgical context and catechetical preparation.

The idea that sacramental acts have to be done quickly and can be done outside the normal liturgical situation is false.  There is no urgent need to celebrate these sacraments just because they fit into the school calendar.  In many dioceses, celebrations of First Communions have yet to be begin.

Some efforts, often well intentioned, run the risk of reducing the administration of sacramental acts almost to the level of a supermarket in which you can drop in and “get the sacrament done”. This would reduce the Eucharist to a commodity.  First Communion and Confirmation ought to be celebrated through personal participation in a liturgical act.  Indeed, I have been hearing many very favourable comments on the small and intimately prayerful celebrations that have been taking place in most parishes and I am very appreciative of parishes who have arranged this. They show that carefully taking time produces better results that undue haste.

+Diarmuid Martin

Saturday 19 September 2020

 

FURTHER NOTICE CONCERNING THE PASTORAL SITUATION IN

COUNTY DUBLIN UNDER CHANGED CORONAVIRUS NORMS

 

18 September 2020 – Evening

 

Confirmation has been received that, in the light of the very worrying increase in infection in the Dublin area, the entire County Dublin will be placed on Level 3 of the Government’s COVID-19 Resilience and National Recovery Plan, beginning at midnight tonight and for at least a three-week period.

The norms apply to all places of worship within County Dublin, including those of religious houses that are generally open to the public. They do not apply to the Churches of the Archdiocese of Dublin in Counties Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare and Laois.

Places of worship will have to remain closed from midnight tonight, except for private prayer, weddings and funerals.  Attendance at wedding liturgies and funerals would be limited to 25.

Religious services can be transmitted online with no public presence.  As was the case in the past, parishes should make known as soon as possible the times of the transmission of Masses online.  Where an individual parish does not have the ability to transmit online, details of neighbouring parishes can be supplied.  The Masses from the Pro-Cathedral are accessible on www.dublindiocese.ie and www.procathedral.ie

While online transmissions can play a vital role in reaching out to the sick and where it is not possible to hold public liturgies, we have to remember that no broadcast can replace personal participation with our brothers and sisters in the Eucharistic assembly that has the church building as its home.  We must pray intensely that we will be able to return to public worship at the earliest possible date.

Confirmation and First Communion services (including those planned for tomorrow, Saturday) will therefore not be possible during this period and will have to be postponed.  Permissions already granted to priests to celebrate Confirmations remain valid for a rescheduled date.    Any celebration of these Sacraments -such as in schools or other places – constitutes public worship and is covered by this restriction and should not take place.  I understand the concerns that this may bring to many families.

I am aware of the fact that these measures will be painful for many.  The decisions are made to respond in the best possible way to an unforeseen and complex situation. The Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship in a recent letter, approved by Pope Francis, noted that restrictions should be limited in time and that as soon as circumstances permit it is urgent to return to the normality of Christian life.  It also stressed unambiguously the gratitude of the Congregation  to Bishops who  “in listening to and collaborating with civil authorities and experts… have been prompt to make difficult and painful decisions even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period”

Today, we find ourselves sadly in that situation once again and we are called to make painful sacrifice for the common good.   The Holy See’s Letter stresses that “Aware that God never abandons the humanity He has created, and that even in the hardest trials can bear fruits of grace, we [should accept] our distance from the Lord’s altar as a time of Eucharistic fasting, useful for us to rediscover its vital importance, beauty and immeasurable preciousness”.

I appeal to all to enter into this difficult period with that spirit.  We must pray that we can soon return to the Eucharist “with a purified heart, with a renewed amazement, with an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with him, to receive him and to bring him to our brothers and sisters with a life full of faith, love and hope.”

As you are aware the annual collection for Crosscare was planned to take place over this weekend.  Please encourage people not to overlook this important collection. Donations can be made online at www.crosscare.ie

+Diarmuid Martin

18th September 2020

 

 

 

URGENT NOTICE CONCERNING THE PASTORAL SITUATION IN

COUNTY DUBLIN UNDER CHANGED CORONAVIRUS NORMS

 10 am 18 September 2020

 

It now seems most likely that the entire County Dublin will be placed on Level 3 of the Governments COVID-19 Resilience and National Recovery Plan, beginning at midnight tonight for a three-week period.

 

I will send out more definitive guidance when the decisions are announced later, but I feel it is good to send this preliminary advice based on the published general Level 3 advice.

 

The norms apply only to Churches and Oratories within County Dublin.  It does not apply to the Churches in the Archdiocese of Dublin in Counties Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare and Laois.

 

It is likely therefore that places of worship will remain closed from midnight tonight, except for private prayer, weddings and funerals.  Attendance at wedding liturgies and funerals would be limited to 25.     Religious services can be transited online with no public presence.

 

Effectively this places Churches in the position they were before the reopening earlier this summer, or as the situation was in counties Kildare and Laois early this month.

 

Confirmation and First Communion services will therefore not be possible during this period and will have to be postponed.  Permission already granted for Confirmations remain valid for the new date.

 

 

 

Link  to Bishops Conference Checklist  
Bishops Conference Guidance & Checklist for Churches

 

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.

 HSE Guidance for Religious Services

CORONAVIRUS PASTORAL ADVICE

 15 September 2020

            For the moment, the entire diocese is considered to be at Level 2 of the government’s new COVID-19 Resilience and National Recovery Plan.  For your information, please see below the norms for Stage 2 for religious services.  They remain as current advice.   Should County Dublin at some stage pass to Level 3, more stringent norms will apply about which I will inform you.

Stage 2

“Religious services

Open with protective measures (for example, appropriate social distancing, one-way traffic within the venue, removal of communal prayer items) for up to 50 worshippers.

Where the premises allows for a capacity of greater than 50 this may be permitted in separated sub-groupings of no more than 50, with additional protective measures as per guidelines.

Up to 50 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.”

+Diarmuid Martin

15th September 2020

 

 

UPDATED CORONAVIRUS PASTORAL ADVICE FOR PRIESTS AND PARISHES

10 September 2020

 

I have received a number of queries concerning comments of the Acting Chief Medical Officer about gatherings in households after Baptism and First Holy Communion liturgies. The comments of the CMO were clearly about celebrations in households and did not refer to religious ceremonies themselves.

Indeed I have been receiving many positive comments on the manner in which First Holy Communion liturgies are being celebrated in small groups, with full respect for the social distancing and face covering norms.  Many have found these intimate celebrations – often with the participation of just both parents – more prayerful and reflective than the traditional larger school-class based ceremonies.

Where these norms are being respected and where the religious ceremony is carried out safely with thoughtfulness and dignity, I see no reason – as some have suggested – that such liturgies should be cancelled. However we have to be careful that our liturgies do not – despite our efforts – become the occasion of irresponsible behaviour by families when they return home.  If such irresponsible behaviour were to continue, the public health authorities would rightly become concerned.

This is something that should be stressed at eventual registration for First Holy Communions and at possible practices for the ceremony.  The current increase in infections in the greater Dublin area requires scrupulous adherence to the restrictions on household gatherings.

Similarly the special norms regarding the numbers who may attend regular religious services (50 people or “pods” of 50 people) are conditional on ensuring that there be staggered entry and exiting from Churches to prevent large gatherings after a religious ceremony.  If Churches were to become the focus of large gatherings, this could easily lead to restrictions being introduced.

I am aware of the challenge this places on priests who despite asking people not to gather, find that their advice is at times not being respected.   It is not the task of priests to have to police such situations. However, we have to strongly remind people that the restrictions in place are not arbitrary or optional.  It is a question of Christian responsibility and solidarity in the common task of limiting the spread of the virus.

 

CORONAVIRUS ADVICE TO PARISHES

 Update September 8th 

 

          The Acting Chief Medical Officer has drawn attention to the worrying increase in people contracting the Coronavirus in the greater Dublin area.  He addressed an urgent appeal for strict observance of all the hygiene measures that are needed at this moment.

It is important that our parishes and Churches give good example and that we remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus.

In my experience parishes have been scrupulous in respecting the current norms.  Stewarding has been correct without being offensively martial.  Numbers attending have not been great but there has been a slow increase as people begin to overcome initial fears. First communions and confirmations have taken place in small groups and I have heard many positive comments on the prayerful atmosphere of these celebrations.

There are indications however that social distancing in some cases has become loose, especially before and after liturgical ceremonies.  I know that the public health authorities have contacted several bishops concerned about breaches of social distancing.

 

 

I have seen some examples in our Dublin Churches and indeed some parishes have published photos on parish websites that indicate poor practice. I would ask all parishes to examine carefully how they can foster staggered exiting from Churches and prevent gatherings at Church entrances.

 

In addition, I would remind parishes that  the norms which permit gatherings of up to 50 people or “pods” of 50 people in Church buildings applies to religious services alone.  For any other gatherings such as meetings or concerts, the limit is 6 people.

 

For the moment the framework document of the Irish Bishops, requires strict limitation on concelebration.  In such cases, concelebrants should receive from separate vessels.  Concelebrants must receive under both species and it is not permitted for concelebrants to receive under one species alone.

 

There is a growing awareness internationally that “visors” provide less protection than face masks.  While the current public health norms permit the use of “visors” where there are health reasons for not wearing face masks prudence is advised.

 

Should a participant at liturgies and especially a priest, deacon or parish worker contract the virus, they should inform the public health authorities and facilitate tracing measures and follow public health advice regarding deep cleaning of the Church building where this is required.

Once again I am happy that for the most part Churches are exemplary in their respect for the norms.  The growing number of cases in the greater Dublin area would urge us to be particularly vigilant at this moment.

 

For your convenience, I reproduce below the general liturgical advice from the Irish Bishops Framework document.

 

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.

 

Daily Update Thursday 20 August 2020

ADVICE ON Covid-19 MEASURES

Attendance at religious services: The following is the authentic government position regarding attendance a religious ceremonies and funerals in the light of yesterday’s announcements:

 

“The situation regarding Religious Services in places of worship (including Funerals) remains unchanged (i.e. pods of up to 50 with social distancing etc., with the exception of counties Laois, Offaly and Kildare where the number is 25 at present). 

 

The limit of 6 is for indoor settings in homes and applies to funeral related events in private homes (e.g. Wakes etc.).”

 

It is important that we strictly adhere to these norms. For your convenience, I reprint them below:

 

“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”.

The use of facemasks: I am being asked if the wearing of facemasks is obligatory during religious services.  As you will see from above the use of face coverings by all those attending indoor religious services if is strongly recommended.  This means that non-wearing of face coverings should only occur in exceptions circumstances.  In certain circumstances, (and this would include smaller Churches or places that are not well ventilated) the wearing of face coverings is obligatory by virtue of the general norms and is legally binding.

The Framework Document of the Irish Bishops and the HSE guidance say that face coverings are obligatory on priests, deacons and lay ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion.

Presence of parents at the celebration of the sacraments:  I wish to repeat what I have already communicated regarding the right of both parents to attend the administration of the sacraments of their children.  This is diocesan policy. There is absolutely no urgency to hurriedly conclude First Communion or Conformation ceremonies within a short period.  They can easily be spread-out over the coming months.

Some parishes are proposing to limit access to sacraments to only one of the parents of a child.  While I understand the logic of such a proposal in order to reduce numbers. I feel that it is contrary to the fundamental principle in which parents are the primary educators of their children and to exclude one parent from an important event in the faith life of their child would undermine this fundamental principle.  Parents are not just spectators at First Communion and Confirmation.  There are natural protagonists in fostering the faith life of their children.   I am therefore asking that in all ceremonies of First Communion and Confirmations both parents should by right be enabled to participate.

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Daily Update Wednesday August 12th 2020

ADVICE ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS DURING THE PANDEMIC 

I am very much aware of the strain that is currently being placed on parishes and priests as attempts are being made to address the backlog in the administration of the Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation due to the pandemic.  In many places, ceremonies have now been postponed for months.  With the challenges of social distancing and restricted access to Churches, ceremonies have had to be multiplied.

 

In particular, I see the special problems that parishes and Churches in Counties Kildare and Laois are facing where there may have to be further postponements.  We do not know how long that lockdown will last or indeed whether there may in future be similar local lockdowns.

 

Many parishes have already set out their programmes and have applied for permission for local priests to administer Confirmation.  Much of the preparation is taking place while schools are closed and preparation falls entirely on the shoulders of parishes with limited resources.

 

As we look towards the future, we realise that preparation for the sacraments will take place with greater emphasis on parents and parish, alongside schools.  In the Archdiocese of Dublin, many Catholic children attend non-Catholic schools and are already being prepared in parishes.  The current pandemic illustrates how challenging that new situation will be for parishes.

 

Some parishes are proposing to limit access to sacraments to only one of the parents of a child.  While I understand the logic of such a proposal in order to reduce numbers. I feel that it is contrary to the fundamental principle in which parents are the primary educators of their children and to exclude one parent from an important event in the faith life of their child would undermine this fundamental principle.  Parents are not just spectators at First Communion and Confirmation.  There are natural protagonists in fostering the faith life of their children.   I am therefore asking that in all ceremonies of First Communion and Confirmations both parents should by right be enabled to participate.

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 Daily Update Tuesday August 11th 2020

CLARIFICATION REGARDING THE USE OF FACE MASKS 

 I have received a number of enquiries regarding the use of face masks for the distribution of Holy Communion during the current pandemic.

Both the Hierarchy’s Framework Document and the HSE instructions affirm clearly that face masks should be worn by all priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers during the distribution of Holy Communion.

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 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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

+Diarmuid Martin 

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

 

 

 

Parish of______________________________________

 

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.”

+Diarmuid Martin,

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

  1. 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.

  1.  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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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.

+Diarmuid Martin

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

9/6/20

 

Statement

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

 

Introduction

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.

 

Initial Steps

The following steps should be undertaken in each parish to ensure that the preparations in each church are efficiently and effectively planned.

 

 

ACTION

CONFIRM /

COMMENT

 

  1. Establish a Covid-19 Support Team of parishioners to organise preparations and to oversee their implementation and verification. (the verification process may be assisted at Pastoral Area and/or Diocesan level)

 

 
 

  1. Identify volunteers to assist with the implementation and verification.
 
 

  1. Provide appropriate induction and training where necessary to priests, ministers, readers, employees and volunteers.
 
 

  1. Secure an appropriate supply of signage, cleaning/sanitising materials and accessories and items necessary for protection.

 

 

 

Checklists

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.

 

  1. 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:

 

ACTION

 

 

CONFIRM / COMMENT

 

 

  1. Having considered the most up-to-date advice on physical distancing, what is the number of people that can be accommodated safely in each church?

 

 

 

 

  1. How will this be managed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. How will this be communicated to the people?

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Have we clearly indicated the areas in the church where people can sit (e.g. by closing off rows of seats, allowing one person to sit at the end of each free row while permitting those from the same household to sit together, etc.)?

 

 

 

  1. Have we stewards available, as necessary and appropriate, to assist people entering or leaving the church and to direct them to available seats?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have we provided appropriate marking to help people to maintain physical distance, particularly when approaching for Holy Communion?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have we taken account of the needs of people with disabilities?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have we issued clear advice regarding people observing physical distancing while outside the church?

 

 

 

 

  1. Is there appropriate signage to communicate these messages?

 

 

 

  1. 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.

 

ACTION

 

 

CONFIRM / COMMENT

 

  1. Have all Holy Water fonts been emptied?

 

 

  1. If it is decided to continue providing toilet facilities, are these clean and appropriately stocked?

 

 

  1. Can doors be kept open when people are arriving and departing from Mass or other celebrations to minimise contact with door handles, etc. and to improve ventilation?

 

 

  1. Have sufficient hand sanitisers been provided at all entrances and exits?

 

 

  1. Has the issue of the sharing of missalettes been considered? (reusable prayer books, hymnals, hymn sheets, etc. should not be distributed at this time)

 

 

 

  1. What safe mechanism has been put in place for taking up church collections (e.g. secure and supervised boxes near the doors of the church)?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have we identified those areas and objects in the church which will require frequent cleaning (i.e. seats, ambo, microphones, shrines, door handles, etc.)?
 

  1. Has a process been put in place to ensure the regular cleaning of these, including after every gathering?

 

 

  1. Is there a schedule for, and appropriate monitoring of general cleaning and sanitising of the church, including the sacristy?

 

 

Liturgical Matters

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.

 

  1. The following should be noted:
  1. The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is extended for the time being.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Concelebration should be limited, and concelebrants should receive Communion under both kinds using separate chalices or by intinction.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Parishes are recommended to have designated places for Readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Altar servers should assist only when all physical distancing/hygiene considerations have been taken into account, and with careful supervision.

 

  1. Regarding processions, the simple Entrance and Recessional format is recommended at this time.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. At this time, the optional exchange of the Sign of Peace can be omitted, or offered in a manner which avoids any physical contact.

 

  1. The procession for people approaching for Holy Communion should be carefully planned. Stewards may assist if required.

 

  1. For the time being, it is recommended that Communion should not be given under both kinds, and should be received in the hand.

 

  1. Priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.

 

  1. Priests and ministers should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Care should be taken to thoroughly clean all vessels and to change purificators and finger towels after each Mass.

 

  1. At the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, the celebrant will sign the child with the Cross without touching.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.

 

  1. 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.

Communications

Each Diocese should plan for the clear and effective communication of all necessary protocols and procedures to all parishes in the Diocese.