Pope Francis encourages us to renew our confidence in Our Lord and resolve to confront this pandemic situation “with the strength of faith, the certitude of hope and the fervour of charity” (Francis, March 8, 2020). I want to congratulate all who have helped in this pandemic. Right across society people have stepped up to the mark in caring for those in particular difficulty at this time – especially the sick, housebound, homeless and less well-off. Generally, it has been very difficult for most people. Our health authorities are trying their best to keep our community physically safe.
Priests have been caught in a strange situation. While wanting to be with their people, circumstances have forced them to limit human contact to only urgent cases and many have gone online and found virtual ways to keep in contact. A simple telephone call goes a long way in letting people know that they are valued. I want to assure people that they are closely accompanied by their pastors. Mass is still celebrated each day by your local priest who keeps in mind the intentions and prayers of his parishioners. I want to thank all those who have supported their priests financially and in other ways and have not forgotten them at this time.
Part of our care for our brothers and sisters is our concern for their spiritual well-being. This week in preparation for Pentecost, the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available across the diocese in open-air venues. See the diocesan website for the list of confession times and venues.
Many people of faith are finding not being able to receive Holy Communion extremely burdensome. Like many others I am very sad that we still cannot gather for Eucharist together. People feel frustrated and cannot understand why the public celebration of the sacraments is not allowed. Sacraments sustain and strengthen us, and many feel as if their vital importance has not been given due consideration. Care for the human person entails not only the physical but also the spiritual and psychological dimensions. Many things have to be taken into consideration to deal with this pastoral problem which is not an easy one.
There are people who rightly fear gathering in a congregation when churches reopen for Eucharist. I wish them to know that there is no obligation to attend Mass during this emergency situation and anyone with genuine worries or an underlying health condition should stay safe at home and know that God is with them where they are. If they know how to access the many online Masses and devotions, they can benefit spiritually from them. Some parishes broadcast Mass on radio or via webcam. I, myself have a daily message on YouTube on our Diocesan website, daily Rosary on Facebook, live-streamed Sunday Masses, and other initiatives.
I wish to commend all those who have been so patient in living without the Eucharist. It is my hope that we will not have to wait too long for the Mass to be publicly celebrated, but we must proceed with caution. Each parish must be ready with volunteers who, working with their priest, ensure that all reasonable measures are taken to have our places of worship very safe so that people can be confident as they worship. This will be a great help when the time comes for public Masses to resume.
I wish to thank all those who have kept the Lord company in Adoration in parishes throughout the diocese. They have brought with them the intentions of others, remembering especially the sick, the bereaved and the lonely.
I would be happy to hear your views on any issue brought up in this message. I can best be contacted at in[email protected] or Bishop’s House, Johns Hill, Waterford.
With every good wish,
Most Reverend Alphonsus Cullinan, DD,
Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.
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