Advice to Parishes on Covid-19 Precautions – October 2021
Recent announcements, north and south, regarding the easing of Covid-19 restrictions offer at least some hope that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Among our hopes as we approach the month of November and the Season of Advent is that more of our parishioners will feel confident in gathering again with their parish community, especially for the Sunday Mass.
While we are moving in a positive direction, it is most important that our churches continue to be safe places in which people can gather with confidence in increasing numbers. We therefore ask parishes to examine carefully how the gradual easing of restrictions in their churches can be wisely managed. Consideration should be given to continuing for the time being some of the many useful practices which have been developed during the pandemic, including good ventilation of buildings and the provision of hand sanitiser. We also continue to recommend the use of face coverings in all Church buildings and ask that people be encouraged to exercise strong personal responsibility with regard to good social distancing at all church gatherings. Of course this will depend on everyone exercising a high degree of care, especially for the most vulnerable in our parish communities who wish to return to Mass and the sacraments at this time. Sensible hygiene measures and the use of face-coverings are among the ways in which people’s health can be protected and all can feel confident in gathering in church.
Any changes should be guided by public health advice. Advice received recently from the Irish government includes the following:
As the capacity of Places of Worship and numbers attending varies greatly, we ask each parish to consider what they are comfortable with and what best suits their congregation. This will be particularly relevant for funerals/special ceremonies, with large congregations in attendance. Attendees on these occasions should not be permitted to stand in the aisles or doorways and hand-shaking and the use of condolence books/sharing of Booklets etc should continue to be avoided.
Choirs or soloists performing in Places of Worship should be limited in line with the size/capacity of the venue, and should adhere to 2 metre social distance from other singers, the choir master, the congregation and any other individuals in the setting (as they will not be wearing face masks during performances).
We are advised that Covid-19 will remain a threat, and so we will all need to be respectful and protective of the well-being of others, taking sensible precautions and allowing space to those around us.
The Sunday Eucharist is at the heart of our identity as the People of God. Although throughout the time of pandemic numbers in churches were small and it was necessary at times for people to connect and pray with the community by virtual means online, it is in being present with each other to offer worship to God that we truly express our nature as a community of faith. It is a joy to see the time approaching when this can happen in complete freedom and we all can fulfil our joyful calling to worship as One Body, One Spirit in Christ.