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THE REOPENING OF CHURCHES FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP

ARCHDIOCESE OF DUBLN 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.

+Diarmuid Martin       Tuesday 16 June 2020

IRISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE

FRAMEWORK DOCUMENT FOR A RETURN TO THE PUBLIC CELEBRATION OF MASS AND THE SACRAMENTS

9 JUNE 2020

 

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

  

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

  

  1. 4.      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.

 

A. 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. 5.      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. 6.      How will this be managed?

 

 

 

  1. 7.      How will this be communicated to the people?

 

 

 

  1. 8.      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. 9.      Have we stewards available, as necessary and appropriate, to assist people entering or leaving the church and to direct them to available seats?

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

  1. 13.  Is there appropriate signage to communicate these messages?

 

 

 

 

B. 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. 14.  Have all Holy Water fonts been emptied?

 

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

 

  1. 16.  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. 17.  Have sufficient hand sanitisers been provided at all entrances and exits?

 

  1. 18.  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. 19.  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. 20.  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. 21.  Has a process been put in place to ensure the regular cleaning of these, including after every gathering?

 

 

  1. 22.  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.

 

23.  The following should be noted:

 

        i.            The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is extended for the time being.

 

      ii.            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.

 

    iii.            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.

 

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

 

      v.            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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

      x.            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.

 

    xi.            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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  1. xxii.            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.

 

COMMUNICATION

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

 

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 STATEMENT AT SUNDAY MASSES IN DIVINE WORD PARISH                                                        7TH JUNE 2020

One of the most frequently asked questions of us these days is when will the church open. It is lovely to hear of the very special place this church has in people’s lives and how important is communal worship.

Opening the church is not just a matter of opening the doors. It is a very complex problem and will present us with a whole new way of being together, at least while this pandemic lasts. At the heart of the matter is the need to keep everyone safe and to avoid any possibility of passing on the virus.

Archbishop Dermot Martin has asked every parish to prepare a plan for reopening and has said that no church should be opened unless proper preparations have been made.

I want to reassure parishioners that we are indeed planning for reopening. Our parish pastoral council has been meeting frequently and we are receiving very good advice from various sources.

Reopening presents many problems. Under social distancing we can probably accommodate not more than thirty or forty people at a time; supervision of entrances and exits, cleaning and disinfecting, even how to distribute Holy Communion, are some of the problems we must resolve. There is no doubt that volunteers will be needed to make all this possible.

The pastoral council will be keeping our Website and Facebook pages updated as our planning progresses.

This is an opportunity to thank you most sincerely for your patience, for your affirmation of our webcam presence and for the practical and financial support that the parish and Servite community has received in this difficult time. This is a wonderful parish community and together we will continue to pray for an end to this pandemic and for the safe restoration of our community worship.

STATEMENT OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN ON REOPENING OF CHURCHES FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP

28 May 2020

 

“I fully appreciate and support the just desire by believers to be able to take part fully in public worship again as soon as possible. The Irish Bishops Conference will shortly publish a detailed document and checklist regarding the steps that each parish must take before the reopening of Churches for public worship.  Each parish will be asked to provide a detailed plan regarding its preparations.  What is involved is more than simple social distancing.

A vital dimension of the fight to address the Coronavirus crisis is public health policy that proposes a sequenced effort to ensure that the reopening of diverse elements of society is properly and safely managed.

The current public health policy has required sacrifice on the part of all of us.  People have accepted that. I think of those who have had to bury a loved one without the normal process of grieving, with funeral rites limited to a bare minimum.  We must show respect for those whose sacrifice has been greatest.

Public health policy will only work when its proposals and sequencing are fully respected by all.  There is no room for self-dispensation from or self-interpretation of the norms.  Jumping the queue by individuals or communities puts everyone at risk. I have reminded all parishes this week that disregard for the norms of public health is something that is unacceptable.

The Dublin parish referred to in media reports in these days has in fact a policy statement on its website stating unambiguously “public attendance at daily or Sunday Mass is not permissible during the current pandemic”.  I am assured that the parish has now returned to that policy.

This Irish Church is working intensely to ensure that the reopening of Churches for public worship will be take place in a manner and at a time that is safe.  I appeal to all Churches in the Archdiocese of Dublin to adhere strictly to public policy, even if it involves patience and personal suffering.    I repeat the words of Pope Francis when Churches in Italy were re-opened for public worship: “but please, let us proceed respecting the norms, the prescriptions we are given to safeguard the health of each individual and the people”.

 

FURTHER GUIDANCE REGARDING THE CORONAVIRUS SITUATION

Wednesday 27 May 2020

1.
We remember Father Gerry Byrne who died suddenly yesterday after a lengthy illness.  He was a remarkable witness as to how priestly ministry can be extraordinarily fruitful when our physical strengths are at weak. May the Lord reward him for his generous ministry.

2.
Reopening of Churches for Public Worship: As I mentioned yesterday, the Irish Bishops’ Conference will shortly issue a document that will itemise the specific preparations that each parish should be making for the upcoming reopening of our Churches for public worship.

While recognising that each Church building and each community is different, there will be a General Framework for the entire Catholic Church in Ireland that will apply to every parish. The reopening of Churches for public worship is not simply about the ability to apply social distancing. Before being authorised to reopen for public worship, each parish will be obliged to draw up a detailed plan following a specific checklist. The current norms permit the celebration of funerals limited to 10 people.  Otherwise, places of worship are to open only for periods of private prayers. This is diocesan policy.

The public health situation must rightly influence all our decisions. I repeat the words of Pope Francis at the moment in which Churches in Italy were reopened for public worship: “but please, let us proceed respecting the norms, the prescriptions we are given to safeguard the health of each individual and the people”.

3.
I must remind all parishes that disregard for the norms of public health regarding the opening of Churches for public worship is something that is unacceptable.  It will only damage the efforts of all to move forward together patiently and with caution.   People across the country are making great sacrifices in strictly observing current lockdown norms.  No parish may go it alone and have Mass open to the public in violation of the public health norms.  No parish can self-authorise a dispensation from or propose an individual interpretation of these norms.

4.
Trocaire: You will already have received detailed information on how funds collected in Trocaire Boxes can be transferred to Trocaire over the coming Pentecost period.  I ask parishes to facilitate this process.

5.
Laudato Si:  We have just marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si and the Pope has proposed a yearlong time of reflection and action on the Encyclical.  I encourage you to read the book Theology and Ecology in Dialogue by Monsignor Dermot Lane, published by Messenger Books.  It could well be used as animation in parish reflection and projects.

6.
New Deacons: The ordination of a further group of permanent deacons was planned for Wednesday next 3rd June, Feast of Saint Kevin. This unfortunately must be postponed until a later date.  We should take the occasion to pray for our deacons and the important ministry they carry out in our parishes.  In particular please remember in your prayers Deacon Don Devaney who is, thank God, making good progress in his recovery from illness.

7.
A Reflection for Pentecost:  While we must make progress towards the challenge of reopening our Churches for public worship, we also have to prepare for life in a different religious culture after the Coronavirus emergency.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit who fosters unity and I have written the following Pentecost Reflection on how we renew a true sense of unity and community as we move from a situation dominated by the virtual back to the challenge of reality. I ask you to remember me in your prayers.  Being cocooned – and respecting that situation – has not been easy for me, as is the  case with so many people.  I remember daily in my prayers all  our clergy and lay faithful who are showing remarkable creativity in keeping pastoral life active and flourishing in a situation few of us could have imagined just weeks ago.

[The Archbishop's reflection for Pentecost is the Reflection for this month on this website - see under 'Reflections' on the home page]

FURTHER UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS SITUATION

Monday 25TH May 2020

 Getting ready for the opening of Churches:

All of us are struck and full of admiration at the way parishes have been working creatively in reaching out during this complex lockdown situation.

On the other hand, I realise how we need to move beyond the virtual.  Jesus preached the Good News and he also gathered together a community of disciples.  The readings in the post-Easter daily Masses were all about how the early faith communities were built up, even in the face of hostility and rejection.

There is a clear recognition by believers and indeed many non-believers alike that in the process of healing and grieving,  as we journey through these difficult times,
faith and spiritual experience constitute an important contribution in sustaining people’s personal and mental wellbeing.

As Christians, we suffer through not being able to celebrate our faith through public worship.  As one Bishop noted in these days, “The Sacraments we miss are actions
of the Christian community.  We celebrate them together in Church”.

There is a sense in which this void is especially experienced by priests. Priests share in the anxiousness of all believers and in addition they find themselves unable
to carry out to the full what is most essential in their calling.  Priests are called to break the bread of the Scriptures and of the Body and Blood of the Lord in nourishing and being nourished by the Christian communities entrusted to their ministry. As Archbishop, I experience that void in a deep way.

There is a longing by believers to be able to return to public worship and towards building up Christian communities.

Over the past weeks, all over Ireland, parishes have begun working on plans to be ready to open their Churches as soon as it is safe to do so.  I thank those Dublin
parishes who responded to my request for developing a plan to be ready to open Churches at the appropriate moment, while respecting social distancing and public hygiene.

The Irish Bishops pooled suggestions from each diocese and drew up a first Draft Framework document.  The Standing Committee of the Conference examined this Framework today and has now moved towards producing a shorter and sharper document, with checklists to enable parishes to monitor where they are on the path forward.  That should be available in the next days.

From the outset, the Government Roadmap has noted that it will be constantly evaluating progress in reopening society and it is important that we as Church are ready to respond to any change in the current proposed timescale.

We have to examine how our desires can be measured within the overall public health situation.  It is not that we place public health measures above our spiritual mission.

I remind parishes of the words of Pope Francis when he greeted of the opening of Churches in Italy. “but please, let us proceed respecting the norms, the prescriptions we are given to safeguard the health of each individual and the people”.

I also draw attention to the comments of the Archbishop of Boston as Churches in his diocese were preparing to “proceed patiently and with caution”towards reopening for public worship, No matter what the start date, no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely”.

In the meantime, once again I thank all those who have been sustaining and supporting the ministry of the Church in these times.  You have been making a unique contribution to building up the Church and the Lord will surely work to ensure that your efforts bear fruit in ways that we do not yet imagine.

+Diarmuid Martin,

Monday 25 May 2020

 

CHECK LIST FOR RE-OPENING CHURCHES FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP

Some first reflections in the light of other European countries by

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Monday 11 May 2020

The reopening of Churches for public worship will require detailed preparation.  Each Church building and its surroundings is different and each Church should be preparing its own clear plan in order to be ready for opening.  On the other hand, the fact that the reopening of Churches will involve the movement of a very large number of people right across the State, perhaps on the same day, means that common public health considerations will have to be respected by all Churches.

The reopening of Churches in a number of European countries has in fact been accompanied by strict norms of public health.  The Irish public health authorities will be influenced by the measures taken in other European countries.  At first sight some of these measures may seem drastic, but they have been introduced in a number of countries.

Social distancing is not simply a question of marking out places on Church benches.  Questions arise also about entrance and exiting, about those with physical disabilities, of access to Holy Communion, of toilet and washing facilities, of cleansing or sanitizing of Churches.

This checklist is not a definitive work plan, but rather a list of the questions that each parish should be asking at this stage as it prepares its own plan and reflects on the personnel needs required to put that plan into action.

Safe distancing:  The seating in each Church should be marked, giving an indication of where people may sit in order to guarantee safe distancing.  Where necessary indications should be placed on floors.  Each parish should identify the nature of these indications and where the appropriate material can be sourced.

Church capacity: Once a seating plan has been decided, each parish should clearly define the maximum number of people that the Church can hold.  The Swiss authorities suggest that this will be about one third of the normal attendance.  When this number has been identified, the parish must consider how to deal with possible larger attendance. This could mean suggesting that numbers be systematically spread around the weekdays or that extra Masses be scheduled for Sunday.

Entry and exit into Church.  The parish plan must address how people can enter and leave the Church in a precise order, maintaining social distance and avoiding crowding, especially outside before and after Mass.  This might require, as with Supermarkets, indications of safe distance being marked outside the Church entrance.

All European countries suggest separate entrance and exit doors.  They also request that hand sanitizers be place at all entrances.  Hand sanitizing at entrances will take time to use and will delay entry.  Parishes must examine how such hand sanitizer can be sourced.    The Italian norms foresee separate entry and space for the physically disabled.  In France and Italy it is required that all the faithful wear a facemasks over mouth and nose for the duration of the liturgy.  Social distancing applies to ancillary rooms such as sacristies, which in some Churches may be quite confined.     Doors should be left open to facilitate a smooth entrance flow and to avoid contact with door handles.

For Holy Communion it would seem that the preferred option is for communion to be brought to people rather than by a procession to the altar.  The minister of Holy Communion should wear a facemask and disposable gloves.  Holy Communion should be distributed in the hand only and the Minister of Holy Communion should not touch the hand of the communicant.

Toilet facilities: most Churches have very limited toilet facilities.  People who might use a toilet would be required by the general norms to wash their hands in warm soapy water.  This might be very difficult and it might be necessary to close all toilets.

Collections:  all the European measures prohibit the passing of collection baskets and suggest that suitable containers be placed at entrances or another place deemed appropriate.  Care would be required to avoid theft from such places.   Collectors and counters would have to observe social distancing.   Misalettes and hymn sheets should not be made available in Church buildings.  In Germany and Italy, it is noted that there should be no choir.

Cleansing of Churches:  all countries note that places of worship, including sacristies, are to be regularly sanitized after each celebration by cleaning with suitable antiseptic cleaning material.  At the end of each celebration sacred Vessels, cruets and other objects, including microphones are to be carefully disinfected. Holy Water fonts are to remain empty.

Exclusions:  all the various countries impose a ban on entry to liturgies by those with flu/respiratory symptoms, high body temperature, or anyone who has been in contact with Covid-19 people for a particular period.  Those who are obliged to remain in their residences may not be admitted to Churches.

Notices: some countries require that official notices be placed at Church entrances that specify the maximum numbers that can be present at a liturgy, the norms regarding social distancing and the categories not permitted to attend.

+Diarmuid Martin

Monday 11th May 2020