Northern Ireland news

Priests with visors and aircraft safety films being considered as Catholic Church plans for resumption of public Mass

An organist wears a clear visor at a church in Paris, where Masses resumed at the weekend. Irish priests may have to wear similar protective equipment under Catholic Church plans for the resumption of public Masses. Picture by AP Photo/Francois Mori

TRANSPARENT screens with openings at hand level, similar to those installed around check-outs in some supermarkets in response to the coronavirus pandemic, could be used at Communion distribution points under the Catholic Church's plan to resume public Masses.

Other proposals include priests wearing clear visors when giving out Communion to Mass-goers at their seats and aircraft-style safety videos to explain how to behave when collective worship resumes.

Singing may also not be permitted in church.

These are among measures contained in a draft version of a national framework document that the Church hopes to finalise early next month as it bids to persuade governments that public Mass should be allowed to safely resume sooner than originally envisaged.

The document, obtained by The Irish Catholic, makes clear that attending Mass post-lockdown will be a very different experience.

Church services stopped across Ireland in the middle of March as part of social distancing and public health measures introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Read More: Catholic Church hopeful for early resumption of public Mass

In its five-phase roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions, the Dublin government has proposed that reopening places of worship could be considered from July 20 as part of phase four.

The 'family and community' section of the Stormont Executive's undated 'pathway to recovery' also contemplates church services being permitted in step four of its five-step plan. Step one has not yet been completed.

The all-Ireland plan asks parishes to calculate how many people their churches can safely hold, with this figure clearly displayed.

The faithful who fall into vulnerable categories, including because of their age or ill-health, will be encouraged to remain at home, and to participate via webcam or by radio.

Bishops are expected to extend the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, which will in turn facilitate arrangements for people living in particular areas of a parish to attend on different days of the week.

Confirmation ceremonies, possibly conducted in small groups over several days, could take place in mid-September, according to the plan.

The Irish Catholic said the draft document stated that it was "clear that re-opening the pastoral life of the Church will be far more challenging institutionally than anything we have been through in the past few months".

"Our biggest challenge may be lack of motivation to do all that is required on the part of some, and unbridled enthusiasm to do everything on the part of others," said the bishops' document.

"It needs to be clearly understood, however, that churches will only be able to re-open for public liturgy when the proper procedures have been put in place."

The Irish News reported yesterday that the bishops are expected to sign off early next month on all-Ireland guidelines for how parishes can return to collective worship.

"It is my hope that the Church's national framework document will not only guide our continuing preparations at parish and diocesan level, it will also support our ongoing engagement with government and with 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," said Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news