BISHOP Brendan Leahy has confirmed that planning a safe return to public Mass has started for parishes throughout the Limerick Diocese following the publication of a framework document by the Irish Episcopal Conference (IEC) on Tuesday.
Parishes have been given guidelines for the initial steps to enable them celebrate the sacraments and the necessary measures to protect the public.
They have been asked to establish support teams to oversee implementation of the guidelines and provide appropriate training for priests, ministers, readers, employees and volunteers.
They have also been asked to secure an appropriate supply of signage, cleaning/sanitising materials and accessories and items necessary for protection.
The IEC framework states that the guidelines may need to be adapted in some cases, depending on factors such as the capacity and layout of churches and the size of the parish community, but in all circumstances the safety and health of people, ministers, and priests must be paramount.
No church should be opened for public prayer or worship until satisfactory arrangements have been put in place.
The framework states it is essential that people who are vulnerable or unwell continue to stay at home where they can participate in celebrations through online services.
It sets out checklists and recommendations for physical distancing, maintenance of hygiene, liturgical matters and communication for protocols and procedures at all parishes.
Welcoming the publication of the guidelines, Bishop Leahy said it would get people thinking about a return to public celebration of the sacraments, which everyone has missed so much.
“However, it is not going to be without challenges as, on a parish by parish basis, there is much work to do in a short space of time to ensure that every public health measure possible is taken.
“Obviously, the number of people allowed into churches will be very significantly limited and we need to get a handle on that and all other arrangements. Ultimately, communications will play a big role in this also so that the public will know the restrictions and the arrangements.
“Due to existing health concerns, some people won’t be able to attend and we will have them very much in mind. If there’s a consolation it is in how much people have engaged with our services online during the Covid lockdown. We will, of course, be continuing with those and look forward to our celebrations being enhanced on June 29,” he concluded.