Diocese fixes streaming issue as Masses said in absence of the people for the first time ever
Such was the demand online for Masses that the web service carrying the Diocese of Kerry's multiple feeds crashed amid thousands countywide clamouring for spiritual succour.
Those who tuned in witnessed unprecedented scenes before the site went down - of the former Bishop of Kerry Dr Bill Murphy and other clergy in a host of churches celebrating Mass before row upon row of empty pews.
But the Diocese worked fast to rectify the situation, with Masses streaming live from at least ten churches on St Patrick's morning without trouble.
The Catholic diocese, as with the Church nationally, moved fast to close the door on large gatherings as part of the national fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"Many of those who regularly attend are in the vulnerable category," Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne said in a statement released last week.
"In solidarity with them we want that no one will be coming out to Mass. Every person minimising social contact is key. If this saves even one life..." he added.
However, churches remain open to the public throughout the week - with all asked to maintain the minimum 'social' distance while praying.
"Priests will continue to celebrate their Masses, without a congregation, for all the people of the diocese.
"Where possible this will be broadcast via parish radio or webcam/streaming. People are asked to consider setting aside a few minutes for prayer at 11am on Sundays and St Patrick's Day," Bishop Browne said.
He said the Diocese would decide on the next steps by Thursday of this week: "Meanwhile the diocese will seek to consult widely and by Thursday will make decisions regarding the next few weeks. This gives us time to pause and make good decisions."
It is not expected there will be any change to the current closed-door Masses within the next few weeks at least.
"Our parishes need time to think things through: serving all the faith-needs of the people; a special care for the health of those with underlying conditions and those advanced in years; proper guidance for priests and key parish workers, regarding Funerals and Baptisms. It is important for the functioning of each parish that our priests do not contact the virus."
The Bishop said the Church would be taking its lead from the measures the government is urging everyone implement to stem the virus tide.
"I encourage everyone to follow all their recommendations. Together, looking out for each other, we can come through the days and weeks ahead well. Be a good neighbour. Who around you needs a phone-call?" the Bishop asked.
Meanwhile, he assured all those who were to make their Confirmation of rescheduled ceremonies 'in time'.
"Did we think we would be looking to the Holy Spirit so soon to lead and guide us all during this pandemic? We seek consolation and peace in the Word of God," he said, citing Romans 12 and Matthew 11:28 where Jesus exhorts: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest."
Though Masses are now behind closed doors, many churches are witnessing a surge in numbers of people praying at a safe distance from one another throughout the day as people seek comfort.
Pope Francis has meanwhile expressed his sympathies with those experiencing the difficulties of cabin fever. "I am thinking of families who are cooped up", Pope Francis began morning liturgy on Monday.
"May the Lord help them to discover new ways, new expressions of love, of living together in this new situation. It's a beautiful opportunity to creatively rediscover affection… Let's pray for families so that the relationships within the family at this moment might flourish always."