The Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, has told Priests of the Diocese they can resume first communions and Confirmations in mid-August.
In a letter to all clergymen, he said that, after some months of celebrating Mass safely, it is now time to look again at the Sacraments of Initiation.
“The Government requested in late June that we postpone the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion until a later date,” Bishop McGuckian said.
“Now, along with the other bishops I recommend that our parishes begin to prepare for ceremonies from mid-August onward.”
He continued: “Many parishes have already made decisions along with teachers and families to hold ceremonies later in the year. In some places, after consultation with teachers and parents, and bearing in mind the dates for reopening of both primary and secondary schools, priests and communities might find it convenient to arrange ceremonies some time after Friday 13th of August. The delegations for administering the Sacrament of Confirmation, that were given earlier, can be acted upon from then on.”
However, the Bishop stressed, it is very important that any ceremonies be conducted according to the strict guidelines and protocols that the church has been following to date.
“As regards weddings, we are aware of ambiguity in the government’s new guidelines. They permit 100 guests to attend Wedding receptions. Many of our smaller churches are not able to facilitate 100 persons under current government social distancing guidelines. We are aware that areas in County Donegal, including parts of our diocese, have the highest rates of infection in Ireland. It is essential that we maintain the highest standards of sanitisation and social distancing at all of our ceremonies.”
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he accepted that the restrictions around holding Communions and Confirmations were “very difficult”. However, he warned against any “unilateral breaching of regulations”.
Under current guidelines, places of worship are open for religious services for up to 50 people but ceremonies, such as communions and confirmations, should not take place.
The regulations state: “It is advised that religious ceremonies such as Baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations should not take place at this time. Further advice will follow on resumption of these ceremonies when it is safe to do so.
“From Thursday 5 August, Baptism services may proceed. However, they must follow all protective measures and social gatherings afterwards should be avoided.”