Coronavirus: Down and Connor diocese resumes funeral services
FUNERAL Masses will now resume in the Down and Connor diocese having been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Up to 10 mourners will be permitted to attend funeral services or Requiem Masses in line with Stormont restrictions imposed during the health crisis.
Indoor funerals in the diocese had been suspended since March 25, with the deceased instead taken directly to cemeteries for a short prayer service and burial.
The diocese is also considering how it can facilitate small outdoor weddings, which the executive is allowing to be held from Monday.
In a statement, Bishop Noel Treanor said he is "conscious of the huge sacrifice many families have experienced and heroically made since the introduction of restrictions".
"Now, with the gradual and welcome decline in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, reduced levels of viral transmission within the community, having consulted widely with diocesan clergy and with the appropriate sanitary measures provided for within our churches, I have determined that it is the appropriate time to reintroduce the practice of funeral services and Requiem Masses across the Diocese of Down and Connor," he said.
"With immediate effect, funeral services or Requiem Masses will now be resumed across the Diocese of Down and Connor, while observing the limits on the numbers attending to 10 mourners and observing social distancing regulations."
Bishop Treanor said some funerals may need to be carried out in the deceased's neighbouring parish due to vulnerable clergy shielding or self-isolating.
"I pray that, in the near future, the time will come when we will be able to honour and pray for all who have died and were laid to rest without the full participation of those who have shouldered the pain of grief and loss in such unprecedented circumstances," he said.
On outdoor weddings, the bishop said: "The Diocese of Down and Connor has considered how it may facilitate the sacrament of marriage within the current legislative framework and in accordance with sacramental practice and Church norms. The diocese will circulate guidance and directives to parishes."
He also praised people for the personal sacrifices they have made in curbing the spread of Covid-19.
"The tentative steps taken recently on the pathway to recovery have been achieved by the sacrifice of all in the common pursuit of health and safety," he said.
"With a strong sense of duty, community responsibility and, above all, care for each other, many people have exercised personal responsibility in willingly limiting their freedom to protect their families, themselves and wider society.
"In protecting those around us, we protect ourselves and those we love.
"For the continuing good of all we must continue to remain clear sighted and vigilant to the real and present threat of the coronavirus."