In view of the decision by the Irish Government to move all of the Republic of Ireland to Level 3 restrictions from 7 October for three weeks, it is with regret that the following arrangements must now come into force in parishes in the Republic.
- The celebration of Mass and other liturgies/devotions is restricted to online only.
- Parishes may wish to revise their online Mass times.
- Parishes are encouraged to arrange online devotions and other prayer moments (Prayer of the Church, Rosary, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross etc). Some of these may be led by laypeople.
- Churches should remain open for private prayer only. It is vital that the regular cleaning of churches continues.
- The numbers attending Wedding ceremonies is restricted to 25 people.
- The numbers attending Funerals is restricted to 25 people.
- The celebration of Confirmation and First Holy Communion cannot take place.
- Indoor meetings or outdoor gatherings cannot be held.
- House visits are not permitted.
It is sad that we have come to this point once again, especially after the outstanding efforts of parishioners and priests in preparing churches for the return to the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments over recent months, including the great work done by the many volunteers in keeping our churches clean. We must now, once more, rely on online means to renew and live out our spiritual communion which comes to its fullness in the celebration of the Eucharist.
As Pope Francis puts it in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, we are experiencing ‘dark clouds over a closed world’. We must look out for each other and accompany each other as brothers and sisters in need of God.
I thank all priests for the generous and faithful way in which they continue to walk with God’s people during this time of Covid-19. The restrictions may be hard to live with; having once more to celebrate Mass to an empty church and being unable to carry out our ministry fully is so contrary to our priesthood. But the growing number of cases over recent weeks remind us all too clearly that we are all vulnerable to this contagious disease.
Yes, there will be challenges ahead for us as church communities. But through the grace and love of God and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, we will come through this and build anew, guided and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, pray for us
St Joseph, Protector and Guide, pray for us,
St Macartan, pray for us.
Bishop of Clogher
7 October 2020, Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.