Tuesday 9 June 2020: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said that the challenging work of planning for a safe return to Mass now begins for parishes following the outline of a framework document for a return to public celebration of mass and the sacraments by the Irish Episcopal Conference today.
Parishes have been given framework guidelines for the initial steps they need to take to enable them return to the celebration of sacraments and yet ensure that all the necessary measures are in place to protect all in attendance.
The measures proposed for parishes by the Episcopal Conference are that they establish a Covid-19 ‘Support Team’ of parishioners to organise preparations and to oversee their implementation and verification for the guidelines; identify volunteers to assist with the implementation and verification; provide appropriate induction and training where necessary to priests, ministers, readers, employees and volunteers; secure an appropriate supply of signage, cleaning/sanitising materials and accessories and items necessary for protection.
The framework states that the guidelines set out 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. but 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. The framework states it is essential that people who are vulnerable or unwell continue to stay at home where they can participate in celebrations via online services.
It sets out checklists and recommendations for physical/social distancing, maintenance of hygiene, liturgical matters and communication for protocols and procedures at all parishes.
Said Bishop Leahy: “The publication of this framework is a very positive moment for us all, not least as it gets us thinking about the return to public celebration of the sacraments, which we have all missed so much. However, it is not going to be without challenges as, on a parish by parish basis, there is much work to do in a short space of time to ensure that every public health measure possible is taken.
“Obviously, the number of people allowed into churches will be very significantly limited and we need to get a handle on that and all other arrangements. Ultimately, communications will play a big role in this also so that the public will know the restrictions and the arrangements.
“Some people due to existing health concerns won’t be able to attend and we will have them very much in mind. If there’s a consolation it is in how much people have engaged with our services online during the COVID lockdown. We will, of course, be continuing with those and look forward to our celebrations being enhanced come June 29th.”