Confirmations may have to be postponed at short notice, priests need to find an alternative to passing collection baskets and those vulnerable should not attend funerals, the Catholic Bishops have said.
In a step up in efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus, a new guidance containing more far-reaching directives, has been issued.
The Irish hierarchy met in Maynooth today and issued a statement on ‘liturgical considerations’ in the context of the coronavirus crisis.
In it they said that as bishops, their first concern at this time “has to be for the elderly, the ill and those with underlying medical conditions”.
They said they were presenting their directives in the light of current public health authority advice in Ireland, north and south, aware that these might have to change at very short notice.
The guidance brings into force new directives in addition to those already in place in relation to the emptying of water fonts, communion in the hand, the sign of peace and the use of hand sanitisers.
The bishops have now directed that priests provide an alternative to the practice of passing collection baskets through the congregation.
Furthermore, those with underlying conditions and those who are considered vulnerable are dispensed from attending Sunday Mass and Mass on holy days like St Patrick’s Day. They are advised to use alternatives like parish radio broadcasts and parish webcams.
Those who do attend services are asked to keep a safe distance from one another while in church.
The bishops warn that Confirmations may have to be postponed at very short notice in the light of future advice from the public health authorities.
Those Confirmations that go ahead will see the faithful anointed with a cotton bud containing the oil of chrism ensuring that there is no direct contact. This method will also be used for baptisms.
Priests administering the Sacrament of the Sick will do it with either a cotton bud or a surgical glove.
On the sensitive matter of funerals, the bishops have stressed that though the community of faith will always seek to surround the funerals and burials of its deceased members with love and respect, people with underlying conditions, or who are vulnerable, should not attend funerals. When sympathising, people should not shake hands.
The bishops also signal that they may yet take more radical steps in relation to funerals in the event of “a deterioration in the situation” though they stress that the Church will always stand with the bereaved and do its best to ensure a Christian burial for those who request it.
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