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Framework document for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments

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The following Framework document has been complied by the the Irish Catholic Bishop Conference (Irish Episcopal Conference), to ensure that parishes in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland are prepared for opening for the celebration of public Mass and the Sacraments.

IRISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE 

Framework document for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments

Published: 9 June 2020 

This document is intended to support dioceses and parishes in their own preparations for a return to the public celebration of Mass and the sacraments and may be supplemented at diocesan level. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with return to work protocols and insurance advice. Diocesan bishops are encouraged to put in place appropriate mechanisms for the implementation and verification of the guidelines.

The guidelines provided in this document may need to be adapted in some cases, depending on factors such as the capacity and layout of churches, the size of the parish/church community, etc. However, 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, as indicated in this Framework, have been put in place.

It is most important that people who are vulnerable or unwell, and especially those with any symptoms that might suggest Covid-19 infection, should stay at home and, if possible, participate, as now, via webcam, social media, television, or radio. The same applies to those who have been in recent contact with someone who has the virus, in accordance with public health advice.


INITIAL STEPS
 

The following steps should be undertaken in each parish to ensure that the preparations in each church are efficiently and effectively planned.  


ACTION 1.

Establish a Covid-19 Support Team of parishioners to organise preparations and to oversee their implementation and verification. (the verification process may be assisted at Pastoral Area and/or Diocesan level)

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 2.

The following steps should be undertaken in each parish to ensure that the preparations in each church are efficiently and effectively planned.

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 3.

Provide appropriate induction and training where necessary to priests, ministers, readers, employees and volunteers.

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 4.

Secure an appropriate supply of signage, cleaning/sanitising materials and accessories and items necessary for protection.

  CONFIRM / COMMENT



CHECKLISTS
 

Dioceses and parishes should at all times follow the most up-to-date public health advice and associated regulations and obligations. To reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, public health advice emphasises the importance of strict adherence to physical distancing, good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and regular cleaning and sanitising of shared spaces.  


A. Physical (Social) Distancing
 

Public health authorities advise that people should maintain physical distance from each other (currently at least 2 metres). In our churches this will mean that the maximum number of people who can be accommodated for any communal prayer or liturgy will be much reduced. The demands of physical distancing will also need to be considered in relation to people entering the church and leaving it.

The following checklist is offered to assist dioceses and parishes in ensuring that physical distancing can be observed in our churches:


ACTION 5.

Having considered the most up-to-date advice on physical distancing, what is the number of people that can be accommodated safely in each church?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 6.

How will this be managed?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 7.

How will this be communicated to the people?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 8.

Have we clearly indicated the areas in the church where people can sit (e.g. by closing off rows of seats, allowing one person to sit at the end of each free row while permitting those from the same household to sit together, etc.)?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 9.

Have we stewards available, as necessary and appropriate, to assist people entering or leaving the church and to direct them to available seats?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 10.

Have we provided appropriate marking to help people to maintain physical distance, particularly when approaching for Holy Communion?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 11.

Have we taken account of the needs of people with disabilities?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 12.

Have we issued clear advice regarding people observing physical distancing while outside the church?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 13.

Is there appropriate signage to communicate these messages?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT



B. Maintenance of Hygiene
 

While each person has individual responsibility for following advice on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, the church environment should itself be as safe as any enclosed public space.

The following checklist is offered to assist dioceses and parishes in maintaining the standard of hygiene required in our churches at the present time.


ACTION 14.

Have all Holy Water fonts been emptied?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 15.

If it is decided to continue providing toilet facilities, are these clean and appropriately stocked?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 16.

Can doors be kept open when people are arriving and departing from Mass or other celebrations to minimise contact with door handles, etc. and to improve ventilation?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 17.

Have sufficient hand sanitisers been provided at all entrances and exits?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 18.

Has the issue of the sharing of missalettes been considered? (reusable prayer books, hymnals, hymn sheets, etc. should not be distributed at this time)

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 19.

What safe mechanism has been put in place for taking up church collections (e.g. secure and supervised boxes near the doors of the church)?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 20.

Have we identified those areas and objects in the church which will require frequent cleaning (i.e. seats, ambo, microphones, shrines, door handles, etc.)?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 21.

Has a process been put in place to ensure the regular cleaning of these, including after every gathering?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT


ACTION 22.

Is there a schedule for, and appropriate monitoring of general cleaning and sanitising of the church, including the sacristy?

  CONFIRM / COMMENT



LITURGICAL MATTERS 

A return to public worship, even gradually, will be a source of great joy and hope to our parish communities. Public health considerations will, however, require some practical adjustments to the way we celebrate our liturgies. These should not in any way compromise the integrity of the liturgy and every effort should be made to support active participation and prayerful and joyful celebration.

23. The following should be noted:

i. The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is extended for the time being.

ii. Careful consideration should be given to the number of priests and other liturgical ministers that can be safely accommodated in the sanctuary, allowing for physical distancing and ease of movement.

iii. The sanctuary area should be arranged in such a way that those exercising a liturgical role can do so while respecting the required physical distance.

iv. Concelebration should be limited, and concelebrants should receive Communion under both kinds using separate chalices or by intinction.

v. Deacons should continue to proclaim the Gospel and give the Homily, but caution should be exercised regarding ministering at the altar for the time being.

vi. Parishes are recommended to have designated places for Readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

vii. In the interests of physical distancing, parishes may wish, for the time being, to limit music ministry to a single cantor and a single instrumentalist.

viii. Altar servers should assist only when all physical distancing/hygiene considerations have been taken into account, and with careful supervision.

ix. Regarding processions, the simple Entrance and Recessional format is recommended at this time.

x. Rather than an Offertory Procession, the gifts of bread and wine should be brought by the celebrant from a credence table, placed near the altar, which will also hold the water bowl and finger towel.

xi. Care should be taken to avoid the contamination of the hosts which are to be consecrated. It is recommended liturgical practice to consecrate at each Mass a sufficient number of hosts for that celebration only.

xii. At this time, the optional exchange of the Sign of Peace can be omitted, or offered in a manner which avoids any physical contact.

xiii. The procession for people approaching for Holy Communion should be carefully planned. Stewards may assist if required.

xiv. For the time being, it is recommended that Communion should not be given under both kinds, and should be received in the hand.

xv. Priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.

xvi. Priests and ministers should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.

xvii. It is advisable to provide a small table at each point of distribution with a bottle of sanitiser. This would enable the priest/minister to re-sanitise their hands if necessary during the distribution of Communion.

xviii. Care should be taken to thoroughly clean all vessels and to change purificators and finger towels after each Mass.

xix. At the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, the celebrant will sign the child with the Cross without touching.

xx. A jug of fresh water will be blessed for the Baptism. For the time being, priests may prefer to have only one child (or children from one family) baptised in each ceremony. However, if there are a number of Baptisms in sequence, the same jug of Blessed Water could be used, but water may not be re-used from the font or basin.

xxi. The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.

xxii. For the Sacrament of Reconciliation, provision should be made in the body of the Church for a confessional area. Consideration should be given to the privacy of the sacrament as well as the requirements of physical distancing and hygiene.


COMMUNICATION
 

Each Diocese should plan for the clear and effective communication of all necessary protocols and procedures to all parishes in the Diocese.

Adoremus 2020
Homily - Corpus Christi - Bishop McKeown