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Priests discuss using masks, gloves and screens for communion

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Archbishop Eamon Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin

Masks, gloves and visors for priests will be on the agenda today as the Catholic bishops meet online to finalise guidance for safe worship.

The bishops are expected to publish recommendations tomorrow on the return to public sacraments.

Discussions today will focus on whether priests should or should not wear masks and gloves during Mass and whether they should wear protective face-covering for the distribution of communion.

A number of options for keeping communion safe will be scrutinised, including the possibility of churches putting in place a plexiglass screen, with an opening in the screen at hand level for the reception of communion.

Another option is for the priest or minister of the Eucharist to wear a transparent plastic visor while distributing communion. Receiving from the chalice is likely to continue to be banned for the foreseeable future.

The bishops will also discuss whether communion should be distributed after Mass has ended, allowing those who do not wish to receive to leave immediately, and those who do receive to leave afterwards by another route.

The church hierarchy is expected to recommend a suite of measures to keep worshippers safe, including separate entrances and exits for worshippers.

They will also include hand sanitising for those entering and exiting, as well as for the priest who is saying the Mass and any ministers of the Eucharist.

Numbers attending each service will be tightly restricted in line with social distancing requirements.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, one Church source underlined that the bishops have taken no collective decisions yet on their final recommendations.

"Like the government formation talks, it is all still very much being discussed, and nothing is done and dusted," he said.

Meanwhile Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh called on younger members of parishes "to step forward" to help manage the transition back to full parish life.

Some priests are cocooning and will be unable to provide services and ministry, while physical distancing will reduce considerably the number of people who can gather inside church buildings.

Irish Independent