Catholic Church planning for full reopening of churches and possible early resumption of Mass
The Catholic Church continues to plan for a full reopening of churches in Ireland and a return to Mass and the Sacraments.
By working with health authorities, it will also make a case for early resumption of the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments.
In a Pentecost message to the Archdiocese of Armagh and Diocese of Dromore, Archbishop Eamon Martin says it is sad disappointing that restrictions have gone all the way through the Easter Season and congregations are still unable to gather physically for Mass and the sacraments.
The Archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland said that everyone has been making 'great sacrifices' to protect health and life and to support the common good.
He states in the letter, "we miss meeting up as a parish community. Thankfully our sacrifices are bearing fruit and the number of deaths and ICU admissions from Covid-19 is continuing to decline. I want to thank you for the work you are doing at local level to plan for the full “re-opening” of parish life and worship. Please work closely with your priests so that your parish stands ready to respond quickly when the public health authorities tell us it is safe to begin gathering together again for Mass inside our churches."
The Archbishop thanked those who responded to his call for ideas to help draft a National Framework Document to maximise consistency across the dioceses and parishes of Ireland.
He comments, "at the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference yesterday (meeting for the first time over video call) the Bishops agreed to refine this framework further to include a helpful checklist for parish priests and Covid-19 Parish Support Teams on physical distancing and hygiene. This will help you evaluate progress made to date and guide any necessary improvements in practice within your parish."
The Framework Document will offer guidance on a number of important liturgical issues such as the distribution and reception of Holy Communion; advice for concelebrants, deacons, altar servers; best practice for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and others who assist at Mass.
At the forthcoming Episcopal Conference meeting in early June the Bishops will consider extending the current suspension of the Sunday obligation, the Sign of Peace and use of Holy Water fonts. They will also discuss the celebration of Baptism, Marriage and the Sacrament of reconciliation in the context of any ongoing restrictions.
Archbishop Martin states, "it is hoped that the National Framework Document will help guide our ongoing preparations at parish and diocesan level. It will also support our continuing engagement with government and public health authorities – north and south – in making a case for the early resumption of the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments in a measured and safe way.
"God bless you and your families this Pentecost weekend. Please stay safe. And pray safe!" he concluded.