Archbishop Diarmuid Martin urges Dublin Parishes to “be particularly vigilant at this moment ” to prevent spread of Coronavirus

08 Sep 2020

Statement of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to Dublin Parishes


  “The Acting Chief Medical Officer has drawn attention to the worrying increase in people contracting the Coronavirus in the greater Dublin area.  He addressed an urgent appeal for strict observance of all the hygiene measures that are needed at this moment.

It is important that our parishes and Churches give good example and that we remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus.

In my experience parishes have been scrupulous in respecting the current norms.  Stewarding has been correct without being offensively martial.  Numbers attending have not been great but there has been a slow increase as people begin to overcome initial fears. First communions and confirmations have taken place in small groups and I have heard many positive comments on the prayerful atmosphere of these celebrations.   

There are indications however that social distancing in some cases has become loose, especially before and after liturgical ceremonies.  I know that the public health authorities have contacted several bishops concerned about breaches of social distancing.

I have seen some examples in our Dublin Churches and indeed some parishes have published photos on parish websites that indicate poor practice. I would ask all parishes to examine carefully how they can foster staggered exiting from Churches and prevent gatherings at Church entrances.  

In addition, I would remind parishes that  the norms which permit gatherings of up to 50 people or “pods” of 50 people in Church buildings applies to religious services alone.  For any other gatherings such as meetings or concerts, the limit is 6 people. 

For the moment the framework document of the Irish Bishops, requires strict limitation on concelebration.  In such cases, concelebrants should receive from separate vessels.  Concelebrants must receive under both species and it is not permitted for concelebrants to receive under one species alone. 

There is a growing awareness internationally that “visors” provide less protection than face masks.  While the current public health norms permit the use of “visors” where there are health reasons for not wearing face masks prudence is advised. 

Should a participant at liturgies and especially a priest, deacon or parish worker contract the virus, they should inform the public health authorities and facilitate tracing measures and follow public health advice regarding deep cleaning of the Church building where this is required.

Once again I am happy that for the most part Churches are exemplary in their respect for the norms.  The growing number of cases in the greater Dublin area would urge us to be particularly vigilant at this moment.

For your convenience, I reproduce below the general liturgical advice from the Irish Bishops Framework document.

A return to public worship, even gradually, will be a source of great joy and hope to our parish communities. Public health considerations will, however, require some practical adjustments to the way we celebrate our liturgies. These should not in any way compromise the integrity of the liturgy and every effort should be made to support active participation and prayerful and joyful celebration. 

The following should be noted:

The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is extended for the time being.

Careful consideration should be given to the number of priests and other liturgical ministers that can be safely accommodated in the sanctuary, allowing for physical distancing and ease of movement.

The sanctuary area should be arranged in such a way that those exercising a liturgical role can do so while respecting the required physical distance.

Concelebration should be limited, and concelebrants should receive Communion under both kinds using separate chalices or by intinction.

Deacons should continue to proclaim the Gospel and give the Homily, but caution should be exercised regarding ministering at the altar for the time being.

Parishes are recommended to have designated places for Readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

In the interests of physical distancing, parishes may wish, for the time being, to limit music ministry to a single cantor and a single instrumentalist.

Altar servers should assist only when all physical distancing/hygiene considerations have been taken into account, and with careful supervision.

Regarding processions, the simple Entrance and Recessional format is recommended at this time.

Rather than an Offertory Procession, the gifts of bread and wine should be brought by the celebrant from a credence table, placed near the altar, which will also hold the water bowl and finger towel.

Care should be taken to avoid the contamination of the hosts which are to be consecrated. It is recommended liturgical practice to consecrate at each Mass a sufficient number of hosts for that celebration only.

At this time, the optional exchange of the Sign of Peace can be omitted, or offered in a manner which avoids any physical contact. 

The procession for people approaching for Holy Communion should be carefully planned. Stewards may assist if required.

For the time being, it is recommended that Communion should not be given under both kinds, and should be received in the hand. 

Priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.

Priests and ministers should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.

It is advisable to provide a small table at each point of distribution with a bottle of sanitiser. This would enable the priest/minister to re-sanitise their hands if necessary during the distribution of Communion.

Care should be taken to thoroughly clean all vessels and to change purificators and finger towels after each Mass. “ ENDS

·         Archbishop Martin issued this latest guidance to all priests and parishes in the Archdiocese this afternoon (Tuesday)

·         Further Information: Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Dublin 087 8143462