· “Teams of volunteers have been trained, churches have been prepared and marked out according to social distancing guidelines, and hand-sanitising stations have been sourced and put in place” – Archbishop Neary
I warmly welcome the detailed guidance in relation to religious services published by the government this evening. The guidance is clear and practical and very helpful.
When government and the public health officials introduced measures in March aimed at flattening the Covid-19 curve, we took the unprecedented step of cancelling Masses and other religious services with congregations. Our response was intended to assist all those who were working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the community. While this step was necessary, it has been difficult for priests and parishioners everywhere. While parish teams quickly responded to the situation in the most imaginative of ways, and full use was made of social media platforms, webcams and parish radio systems, the reality is that our people have been unable to attend Mass or receive Holy Communion for more than three months now. The news this evening will be received in parishes everywhere with relief and joy.
Almost as soon as the restrictions were introduced, the Western Bishops – Achonry, Clonfert, Elphin, Galway, Killala, and Tuam – set about preparing a detailed protocol for the re-opening of churches and the resumption of the celebration of Mass and the sacraments. After consultation, the document was finalised and circulated to parishes some weeks ago. Since then teams of volunteers have been trained, churches have been prepared and marked out according to social distancing guidelines, and hand-sanitising stations have been sourced and put in place.
I am grateful for this herculean effort that sees us ready now to resume the sacramental life of the church in line with the guidance published by government today.
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