A QUARTER of priests in the Raphoe Diocese are ‘cocooned’ as a result of the lockdown measures announced by the Government on Friday night.
People over the age of 70 and those in medically-vulnerable categories are not to leave their homes for a period until Easter Sunday, April 12.
There are 13 of the 54 active priests in the Raphoe Diocese who are over 70.
There are six Vicars Forane across the Diocese’s six Deaneries who are now helping to co-ordinate cover when needed. All priests have been issued with personal protective equipment (PPE) for use when carrying out necessary home visits, such as the anointing of the sick.
Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, SJ, had already measures in place for the elder clerics in the Diocese.
“It was recommended that they do not do any house calls or public ministry and that it’s arranged for a younger priest to cover,” Fr Paddy Dunne, the Diocesan Communications Officer for the Raphoe Diocese said.
“We have six Vicars Forane who are looking after the co-ordination of cover for the priests who are over 70 or who have health conditions. There are some pastoral necessities that a priest has to act on.
“We have been advised on how to proceed regarding sick calls or calls to situations. It has been tricky, but we have been very well advised by Mags Moran, the HSE’s Infection Control Officer for Donegal.
“We do have an older age group of priests in the Diocese and the Bishop has been very proactive in putting measures in place.”
Mgr Kevin Gillespie, Very Rev Martin Collum, Very Rev Kieran McAteer, Very Rev Cathal Ó Fearraí, Very Rev Pat Ward and Very Rev Gerard Cunningham are the priests who are co-ordinating in the various areas.
On Monday, Bishop McGuckian issued a letter to the priests of the diocese following a teleconference call with the Diocese’s six Vicars Forane, two Vicars General (Very Rev Francis McLoone and Rev Michael McKeever), Fr Dunne and Ms Moran.
In his letter, Bishop McGuckian outlined the importance of social distancing measures while a priest is anointing the sick.
“This means that only one or two other family members can be present for the anointing and that the visit is limited to a very short period,” the Bishop wrote.
The Bishop instructed that older priests or those with underlying conditions, regardless of age, should not make such visits and added: “Pastoral ministry and the care of the sick and elderly housebound should be done remotely.”
Following the escalation in preventative measures set down by the Government, there will be no Funeral Masses held in the Diocese during the lockdown period.
The remains of the deceased will be taken to the graveyard and a graveyard prayer service will be held before interment.
“The Government is to meet with Church leaders to discuss the guidelines,” Fr Dunne said.
“There has been a lack of clarity regarding funerals and it is such an emotive, tricky issue.
“Whatever the guidelines, the Diocese will follow those.”Tags: