Northern Ireland news

Derry diocese defers First Communions until September

Bishop Donal McKeown said the decision to defer the sacrament of First Holy Communion until September in Derry was a difficult one.
Seamus McKinney

Bishop Donal McKeown has deferred First Holy Communions in Derry until September to prevent traditional parties spreading Covid-19.

Bishop McKeown said he had taken the “difficult decision” to postpone the ceremonies beyond the traditional May dates to protect life in the pandemic.

Last year a number of doctors in County Donegal suggested that First Holy Communion parties, among other events, had led to a spike in cases.

Bishop McKeown had no doubt that the “extensive Covid safety teams, stewards and sanitising policies and procedures” in churches meant they would be safe for the celebration of First Communion and Confirmation.

“However, I am concerned about the parties and other socialising which, although completely disconnected from the celebration of the sacraments and the environs of the church, can and often do occur.

“It must also be recognised that such parties and socialising are a matter for the civil authorities and, indeed, are currently banned under civil Covid regulations; it is of the civil authorities to enforce civil laws,” he said.

Despite that, Bishop McKeown said the Church had a duty to “go the extra step” and to protect public health.

“Therefore, I have taken the difficult decision, after some consultation, that the celebrations of First Communion are to be deferred until September 2021.”

The diocese has also deferred the sacrament of confirmation until June although the decision would be reviewed in mid-May. Baptisms should also be limited to parents, godparents and siblings of the children being baptised. Bishop McKeown said in situations where there were multiple baptisms, numbers within the church should be limited to 25.

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Northern Ireland news