Priests of the Raphoe Diocese are being advised to prepare for the reopening of churches for private prayer.
Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ issued a letter to the clergy last night to prepare for a “new phase” with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions after 18th May.
Funeral services, which had all taken place without a congregation, will soon return to churches with a maximum of ten people. Only members of the household, close family or close friends if the deceased has no household or family members, all be able to attend. Services will continue to be streamed on webcam.
Bishop McGuckian advised priests that they must work with Undertakers to ensure that families are fully agreed in advance about those who can come into the church and cemetery.
“It is very important that people who have been exposed to the Corona Virus should not attend,” Bishop McGuckian said.
A ban on ceremonies of Reception of Remains the evening before a funeral will remain in place.
Bishop McGuckian’s letter also strongly encourages people to observe all the guidelines on social distancing at times when mourners standing along the road or near the graveyard as a funeral cortege passes.
Bishop McGuckian wrote that the period of relaxation of restrictions will be of great importance in the diocese.
“We recognise that there is always the danger of complacency setting in which could have disastrous consequences. I believe now is the time to cooperate generously in the gradual process of relaxation,” he said.
Priests have been asked to follow a list of guidelines on hygiene and social distancing before reopening churches for personal prayer. Guidelines, which should be in place before 13th May, include steps such as creating signage, roping benches off, assembling rotas for hygiene etc.
Bishop McGuckian acknowledged that the ‘intense faith’ and togetherness in parishes at this time, commenting: “Since the period of ‘lockdown’ began some weeks ago every aspect of our lives has been turned upside down, including our faith lives. The Faithful in our diocese have been extremely impressive in their patient acceptance of the current situation as regards the practice of their faith. Many people are living very intense faith lives and are supporting each other and their priests in beautiful ways. We are in this together, priests and people, and there is something very rich going on behind it all.”