The Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian SJ, has urged people to accept the “extremely painful” restriction of being unable to attend funeral Masses during the Covid-19 outbreak.
All funeral services in the Diocese are to take place without a congregation under new guidelines, with a small number of family members only permitted at the burial.
The new measures come after the HSE issued further guidance on funerals yesterday, including those arising from Covid-19 deaths, to restrict the numbers in a church or at a graveside to 10. Individual churches have been allowed to put specific restrictions in place.
In a statement issued last night, Bishop McGuckian recommended that priests in the Raphoe Diocese should continue with their policy of praying at the graveside only and, on the day of a funeral, offer Mass for the deceased in the morning behind closed doors without a congregation present. This Mass could be relayed by webcam or by Facebook to the family gathered at home. The Mass would then be followed by burial and prayers in the graveyard.
Bishop McGuckian said: “We will continue with our policy of praying at the graveside only and strongly encourage families to respect both social distance and the limit of ten persons. Ongoing cooperation with Undertakers is much appreciated. I recognise the invaluable service they are providing to the bereaved now as at other times.
“The Coronavirus is an extremely contagious disease and if we as a community do not do all in our power to abide by the restrictions placed on us many people may die, as we know is the case in other countries. For this reason I call on everyone to accept this extremely painful restriction. If we stretch ourselves for a short few weeks many lives will be saved.
“Those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions are mandated by the Government to stay at home and they should be strongly encouraged not to attend funerals even when all of their humanity seems to demand it of them. Many of our priests are over 70 and others are carrying underlying conditions. They too must be extremely careful in this regard.”
There are 13 of the 54 active priests in the Raphoe Diocese who are over 70 and are ‘cocooned’ as a result of the lockdown.
Bishop McGuckian also acknowledged these challenging times for parishioners as they adapt to being unable to attend Mass in person:
“We made the sad and painful decision two weeks ago to cancel all public Masses. It was purely and simply in the interest of helping to save lives. Our people, though many of them were devastated at losing the possibility of regular communion, accepted that decision in the interests of the common good.”
His statement concluded: “We continue to pray daily that the threat of this virus will pass. We pray for those who have died of the virus and those who mourn them. We ask God’s protection and blessing on all of the frontline workers who are so deserving of our appreciation and admiration. We commit ourselves to look out for each other and to do all we can to protect our neighbours from infection.”
With every blessing and good wish.
+Alan McGuckian SJ
Bishop of Raphoe