Pastoral Letter of Bishop Denis Brennan: Coronavirus and liturgical norms for the Diocese of Ferns

19 Mar 2020

“Physical attendance at Mass and gathering as congregation within Church buildings may be suspended.  Church itself is not” – Bishop Brennan  

Dear People of the Diocese of Ferns,

In writing to you at this time I am very mindful of the words of Saint Paul: “nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. … These are the trials by which we triumph by the power of Him who loved us.”

In words that have a very particular resonance at this time of threat from the coronavirus, Saint Paul continues: “neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power or height or depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8: 35-36, 38-39).

Any reading of the current situation clearly shows that we are living in worrying times.

As bishop and priests, our primary prayer intention at this time is your welfare, and the welfare of your families and your friends.  Our diocesan Church is united with the whole Church in praying for the welfare of all.

We pray for those charged with discerning and implementing the plan which will help navigate us through these very turbulent waters.  The situation is daily evolving and diligent adherence to the daily advice of the state authorities is vital.

Earlier today, I met with the Vicars of the Diocese and we discerned the following directives and suggestions:


–          All public Masses are suspended from Friday 20th March 2020. All are dispensed from the obligation to be physically present at Mass.

–          Spiritual communion is encouraged by participation in Mass via television, the local radio and the internet.

–          Churches are to remain open as per normal hours.

–          Eucharistic adoration will continue in churches but not public exposition for groups.

–          The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) will remain available to individuals in parishes as will requests to visit the sick or elderly.

–          Baptisms, weddings and funerals will continue and will be organised with respect to HSE advice re numbers appropriate for internal gatherings.

–          Individual devotions at churches such as Stations of the Cross may continue.

–          Holy water fonts will remain emptied and hymn books and baskets will remain removed.

–          No non-essential meetings should take place.

–          Parishioners are invited to make sacred spaces in their homes, to read the Holy Bible, to recite personal and/or family prayers, to support the volunteer groups who outreach to the elderly, the vulnerable and the poor.  I include (see below) a prayer which I invite you to recite daily with me for the duration of this crisis.

All continuing Church related activity needs to be fastidious in its observation of the requirements of social distancing, hand hygiene and coughing protocols. 

Anointings of any type will be by cotton bud, not by hand touch.

With you, I would like to thank the many who are engaged in our hospitals at present.  Gratitude also goes to all public servants, to emergency personnel, to staff in the retail sector and delivery services, to the many in media who seek to ensure clear factual messages and updates, and to the many, many ‘local heroes’ who have raised hands to help in our parishes.

I would like to thanks the priests in the parishes who remain at their posts and who seek to offer reassurance, comfort and solidarity to those they are called to serve. 

Physical attendance at Mass and gathering as congregation within Church buildings may be suspended. Church itself is not.  

Praying daily as individuals and as families, the daily offering of Eucharist by the local priest in your local church (albeit not publically), and the simple outreach gestures to neighbours and friends ensure Christ not only remains in our local areas, it points to His very visible and active presence. 

May The Lord bless you and keep you.  May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. 

I remain, in Christ,

+ Denis Brennan

Bishop of Ferns


Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.”  At your command, the sick were made well.  Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.

Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus.  May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died.  As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair.  May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process.  May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations.  Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve.  Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks.  May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare.  In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us.  Amen.


For media contact: Father John Carroll, Diocese of Ferns Press Officer, Bishop’s Office, Summerhill, Wexford +353 (0)53 91 22177