Update from Bishop Kevin Doran 30th March 2020
Last Friday, further restrictions were introduced to our country and we owe it to one another to take them seriously. I wanted update you on how that impacts us in this diocese:
1. Open Churches
For the moment, at least, we are thankful that our Churches remain open for private visits. I think this will depend on how well all of us can be encouraged to follow the guidance. When visiting for personal prayer, please maintain the safe physical distance (2 metres from another person) and I ask that only a small number of people would be in the Church at any one time.
2. Celebration of Mass
Mass continues to be celebrated on a daily basis in your parish but without a congregation. I am heartened by the numbers of people tuning in online and via parish radio to pray with their priest and I am equally heartened by the innovative ways with which our priests are reaching out online to ensure you can join them in praying the Mass.
3. Care of Priests
All priests over 70 years of age and those with underlying conditions have been asked to “cocoon”. This means that priests over 70 (or with underlying conditions) will not, unfortunately, have any public ministry, including funerals, for the duration of these restrictions.
4. Funeral Liturgies:
Under the present circumstances, the following guidelines should be followed:
- funerals may proceed, but physical participation must be limited to immediate family only (government have indicated this would be 10 immediate family members)
- only one priest is to celebrate the Mass – there are to be no concelebrants
- other than those actually living in the same house, the limited congregation should observe the safe physical distancing protocol of 2 metres between one person and the next
- elderly people and those with underlying health conditions should stay at home
- members of the limited congregation should not, under the present circumstances, come to the ambo or use a microphone. They should also not present gifts or symbols.
- in the case of death from Covid-19, specific arrangements will apply as communicated by the health authority via funeral directors
Mass will always be offered privately for the deceased, if requested, even if it comes to the point that there can be no congregation.
5. Sacrament of Baptism
The Church always wishes to welcome those who come for Baptism. Under present circumstances, however, it would be preferable to defer the celebration of Baptism until the present crisis has passed. However, if a family really wish to proceed, they should make contact with their parish priest who will advise them on what to do.
6. Sacrament of Marriage
For the moment, the Sacrament of Marriage may only be celebrated on the understanding that participation is limited to the couple themselves, their two witnesses and the priest. If couples have had to cancel their marriage plans, I will consider on a case by case basis, by way of exception for 2020 only, requests from couples for Sunday celebrations of Marriage later in the year.
7. Sacrament of Reconciliation
I understand that people are anxious to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, particularly at Easter. Having considered all the options and consulted with priests and fellow bishops, I have concluded that there really is no safe way to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the present time. I know this decision will cause many people to be greatly disappointed. You might be reassured, however, by what Pope Francis said during a Homily on March 20th.
“But many people today would tell me, ‘Father, where can I find a priest, a confessor, because I can’t leave the house? And I want to make peace with the Lord, I want him to embrace me, I want the Father’s embrace.’” The pope said his response would be, “Do what the Catechism (of the Catholic Church) says. It is very clear: If you cannot find a priest to confess to, speak directly with God, your Father, and tell him the truth. Say, ‘Lord, I did this, this, this. Forgive me,’ and ask for pardon with all your heart.” Make an act of contrition, the pope said, and promise God, “‘I will go to confession afterward, but forgive me now.’ And immediately you will return to a state of grace with God.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, N. 1452, says: “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ – contrition of charity. Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.” “As the catechism teaches,” Pope Francis said, “you can draw near to God’s forgiveness without having a priest at hand. Think about it. This is the moment.”
8. Pastoral Care of the Sick and Sacrament of Anointing
The anointing of the sick will be celebrated, when urgent pastoral need indicates and without direct physical contact. This is to protect the vulnerable from any risk of transference of the virus from outside the sick-room.
- First Friday visits are suspended for the duration of the crisis, but priests are encouraged to make contact and perhaps pray with parishioners by phone.
- If a priest has to visit the sick and dying, “cotton-buds” or sterile gloves should be used. Under present circumstances, visits should be limited to no more than five minutes.
- Priests over 70 and those with underlying conditions should NOT make any visits to the sick and dying.
9. First Confession and First Holy Communion
Children and families look forward so much to First Holy Communion. At the moment there is no decision made as to whether or not this will go ahead in parishes before the Summer. In the meantime, I encourage children to continue their preparation for the Sacrament, if possible. These on-line resources may help parents to keep their children focused on the Sacraments.
10. Sacrament of Confirmation
It is not possible at this stage to say anything more definitive about Confirmation other than it is suspended for the time being. However, I want to reassure all Confirmation candidates that they will be Confirmed as soon as it possible to do so.
11. Holy Week
As already indicated, the ceremonies for Holy Week will take place but without a congregation. I will advise you shortly about plans for Holy Week across the diocese and I hope to have resources available for you to follow these ceremonies at home.
I continue to pray daily for all who are suffering as a result of Covid-19 and for all our dedicated front-line workers. I pray that with each of us doing our part, we will soon flatten the curve and get this virus under control.
I wish you all every blessing.
30th March 2020