UPDATE FROM ARCHBISHOP 25th JUNE 2020
Framework Document for a Return to the Public Celebration of Mass and the Sacraments
Message of Archbishop Martin to Priests & Parishes
SECOND UPDATE – 25 JUNE 2020
I had an online meeting this afternoon with the Secretary General to the Government about the discussion at and the decisions taken by yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Public Health authorities were against making any exception for Churches from the maximum number of 50 at indoor gatherings. They had specific concerns about Churches: these included the problem of access and exit from Churches and especially in car parks; they felt that the larger of any gathering, the greater the risk; they referred to examples from overseas where outbreaks occurred around Church gatherings; they were concerned about the possibility of community singing fostering the spread of droplets.
The Cabinet was anxious to widen the possibilities for Churches but was not prepared simply to lay aside the view of the CMO.
The result is that the number of 50 remains the norm for Churches at this moment.
The Government has however initiated a process whereby the norms of the HSE and those of the Churches would be examined and positions of agreement identified. The intention of the Government was to complete this process in the course of the coming week. It is hoped that an agreement could be reached which would permit removing the cap of 50, if wider health advice is followed. There was a recognition that the needs of the Catholic Church were different to those of smaller denominations where congregations were generally smaller.
It was felt that a new incoming government would follow the same path as was decided yesterday.
Any further recommendation would however have to be submitted once again to the CMO and there is no guarantee that he would accept the conclusion.
In practice this means that our parishes will have to observe the number of 50 people present at any function for the moment and the hope is that before next weekend, when Sunday Mass reopens, some flexibility will have emerged.
Checklists: I have already received and accepted Checklists from a very large number of parishes and in the past hours I have received many more. Some parishes have decided that they are not prepared to re-open just yet. I am very grateful for all the effort that has been put into place over the past weeks. The reopening of Churches for public worship will be a great moment in Church life and an enhancement to priests in their ministry after a difficult time.
In the light of the concerns expressed by the public health authorities it is important that in these early days we do all we can to manage scrupulously the measures for personal and public safety of our congregations.