Update from Bishop Kevin Doran 11th April 2020
I think we all knew in our hearts that we could expect the restrictions of recent weeks to continue beyond Easter. I know it is difficult for many people with children and also for older people who are feeling the isolation. Still, the sacrifice will be worth it if we can save lives and free our country from the Covid-19 Virus. Now that the Government has announced a continuation of the restrictions until May 5th, I wanted to update you on how we will manage this in the life of the diocese:
- Open Churches
Our Churches remain open for private visits. We are conscious of the need to keep door handles and key areas sanitised. It is, in any event, good practice for us all to carry some gel or sanitising hand wipes. 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.
- 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.
- Care of Priests
All people over 70 years of age and those with underlying conditions have been asked to remain in the “cocoon”, because they would be most at risk from the Virus. If your priest happens to be in that group, you can still contact him by phone or email, but he is not supposed to have direct contact with others. This means that, in the event of a sick call or a funeral, he will arrange for another priest to assist you.
- Funeral Liturgies:
Under the present circumstances, the following guidelines still apply:
- 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.
- Sacrament of Baptism
Under present circumstances, the celebration of Baptism is suspended until further notice. If you have particular concerns please discuss the situation with your local priest, who will be happy to advise you.
- 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.
- Sacrament of Reconciliation
These days of Holy Week are the days when we are closest to the Mercy of God. This year, however, it did not seem safe or appropriate to invite people to come to Confession, while everybody is staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus. I understand that this will be upsetting for some people. The Irish Bishops have suspended what is known as the “Easter Duty” this year, because of the unique circumstances.
But God always finds a way to show us his mercy. That’s what He does best. Remember the Year of Mercy. The Lord knows all about your sins, whether they were many years ago or just the other day and all he wants is for you to come back to Him with your whole heart.
Just a few weeks ago on March 20th Pope Francis said that when Confession is not possible, you should “speak directly with God, your Father, and just 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, and promise God, ‘I will go to confession afterwards, but forgive me now.’ And immediately you will return to a state of grace with God.” (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, N. 1452). Please God, when all of this over, we’ll have a big “festival of mercy”.
- 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.
- Please don’t hesitate to call the priest if someone at home, or a neighbour appears to be in danger of death. If there is a likelihood that the person may have COVID-19, please alert the priest to this before he comes, so that he can be adequately prepared.
- 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 is called to visit the sick or the dying in an emergency, “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.
- First Confession and First Holy Communion
Children and families look forward so much to First Holy Communion. As I told the children in my recent Video message, Jesus wants to come to them in Holy Communion and he will, but the dates may not be the dates that were originally planned. As things stand at the moment, parishes are not really able to make any concrete plans until after May 5th. In the meantime, I have given the children the special mission to pray each day for the sick, and for all who are caring. I also want to encourage them continue their preparation for the Sacrament, if possible. These on-line resources, including video material, may help parents to keep their children focused on the Sacraments. They are available here.
- Sacrament of Confirmation
It is not possible at this stage to say anything more definitive about Confirmation other than that the original schedule of dates is cancelled and, once again, we will try to make a decision about what can be done as soon after May 5th as possible. These on-line resources, including video material, may help parents to keep their children focused on the Sacraments. They are available here.
- Holy Week
I know that many of you have joined us in our various Churches for the liturgies of Holy Week, whether by web-cam or on Ocean Fm. I am delighted we have been able to provide this level of service and I am grateful to all who have made it possible. I still look forward to being able to gather our parishioners “in the flesh” and please God that day will come before too long
- Exam Students
I am conscious that these are challenging times for young people who have been preparing for exams. It’s hard enough to do that under ordinary circumstances, but even more so one one’s own. I know many schools would have Graduation Masses and end of year Masses in May, to give thanks for the blessings we have received and to ask God’s help with the exams and with future decisions. I hope, in the coming weeks, to celebrate a Mass for students, which people can join on line.
In the meantime, I am happy to say that three young people from Roscommon will be working with me to prepare and celebrate Mass with a youth focus on RTE Television on Sunday 19th April at 11 am. Maybe you can join us.
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 continue to flatten the curve and get this virus under control. You can be part of it, so please stay home and wash your hands.
I wish you all every blessing.
11th April 2020