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Priests in face coverings and communion in the hand only: Here's how churches plan to return to Mass

Religious services can resume during Phase Three which begins on Monday 29 June.

Image: Shutterstock

THE IRISH CATHOLIC Bishops’ Conference has produced a framework document to help churches prepare for a return to Mass and other services later this month.

The plan includes a “much reduced” capacity in churches to allow for physical distancing and the implementation of detailed rules, including priests wearing face coverings while distributing communion.

As part of the government’s roadmap for reopening the country, religious services can resume during Phase Three which begins on Monday 29 June.

At that point, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has said parishes will “slowly and cautiously resume public worship” but that this must be done “in a limited way”.

“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 missive states.

The lengthy document also provides specific guidance on how different elements of a liturgical Mass can be implemented safely. It says that “some practical adjustments” are required.

Among the adjustments are that communion should be received by mass goers “in the hand” only. Priests and ministers are also being told they should wear a face covering while distributing communion.

Priests and ministers should also “visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of communion”.

Clear markings should also be visible to allow people maintain physical distance, “particularly when approaching for communion”.

The document also outlines that the “sign of peace”, which is usually displayed by hand-shaking, “can be omitted or offered in a way which avoids physical contact”.

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Parishes are also being advised that concelebration, where a number of priests celebrate Mass together, “should be limited”. 

The document also provides a checklist for parishes to “maintain the standard of hygiene required in our churches at the present time”.

The checklist includes reminders to empty “all holy water fonts” and to ensure there are no missalettes that could be passed from person to person.

In place of church collections being passed around, the checklist advises “secure and supervised boxes near the doors of the church”.

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Rónán Duffy

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