Saturday 28 March 2020
Following consultations and discussions, and having taken into account the various restrictions that have been imposed throughout Ireland over recent days, the Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Larry Duffy, has put in place a series of further guidelines for Clergy and Parish Communities across the diocese, with immediate effect.
Bishop Duffy says that he is ‘saddened to have to take this course of action, but in the prevailing circumstances and to protect the lives, health and wellbeing of all’, he had no other option but to put these measures in place. He adds that that they highlight once again the commitment of the Church in playing its part in fighting the Coronavirus while at the same time showing solidarity with those who are suffering from it.
He continues, ‘When I was appointed bishop just over a year ago, I could never have imagined I would have to take such radical actions and to have to take them so swiftly. But we all have to make sacrifices for the common good because we have a responsibility to each other. Truthfully, our fate and the fate of others is in our own hands.
‘While I fully understand the impact of these measures on the life of local parishes and on parishioners, by taking these measures now, we will ensure that we can return to sacramental life as soon as possible.’
Among the guidelines issued to clergy and parishes are the following –
- For all funerals, the Funeral Mass will be celebrated at a later date, when this crisis has passed. Consequently, for now, the body of the deceased will be brought directly to the place of burial. The Rite of Committal or Burial will be led by a priest, deacon or, if necessary, a layperson.
- All priests who are aged 70 years or older and those who have underlying health conditions are not expected to take part in frontline pastoral ministry and are therefore excused from doing so. Clergy in each Pastoral Area will make arrangements for pastoral provision.
- Pastoral support to families of the deceased will be provided but via telephone or other forms of electronic communications only. Clergy will not attend wakes if one is held.
- Hospital visits will be conducted by fulltime trained hospital chaplains and subject to the regulation of hospital management.
- There will be no house calls (including First Friday calls) at this time. Clergy may call by phone or similar mode of communications and pray with the sick or housebound.
- Prayer Moments in Churches, such as Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Hour, Rosary or Stations of the Cross, must only be held via online means.
- Individual Confessions are not now possible. People are reminded of the longstanding pastoral practice, when penitent’s access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is restricted, that they can be assured that their sins are forgiven if they make an act of contrition with a firm resolve to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the stay at home orders are lifted. Pope Francis has spoken on this in recent days and it is in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Baptisms and Marriages are no longer to be celebrated until further notice. Where parents are anxious about the health of a child, they should be advised to bless the child with a crucifix or their own hand and the priest may pray with them over the phone or via Skype or some similar communications mode.
- The liturgies of Holy Week, including the Easter Triduum, are to be celebrated without a congregation being present and made available online in those churches that have livestreaming or other forms of social media available. A list of these will be made available next week on clogherdiocese.ie
- Both the Diocesan Office and Parish Offices across the diocese are to close until further notice, with staff working from home, by local arrangement.
- Sunday and Weekday Masses and other moments of prayer in our parishes continue to be accessible via livestreaming. A schedule of these is available on the homepage of clogherdiocese.ie
Bishop Duffy continues:
‘I want to assure you all of my closeness to you through prayer at this stressful time. I too share your fears, your unease, your worries and the sense of loss in these days. This is a very strange and challenging time for us as a Church, as a country and as a world family. But we are not abandoned. God does not do social distancing. God is with us, accompanying us and healing us, because God love us.
‘I am especially conscious of families grieving the loss of loved ones. I assure you that, despite the necessary restrictions, the Church accompanies you in a particular way through our prayers. I am deeply conscious too of the burdens these times place on our priests and deacon and on our staff and volunteers across the diocese. I am also very aware of how creative many are in accompanying people everywhere to bear this cross and embrace hope. Let us continue to do so with courage, with hope and in faith.
‘Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, the health of the sick and the comforter of the afflicted, may the Lord bless us, heal us and comfort us. “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5).’