Bishop Brendan Kelly has issued this message regarding face coverings in Church and other issues related to the Covid-19 emergency:
‘The agreed press statement at the bottom of this email [see below], strongly recommending the wearing of face coverings in Churches at ‘services of worship’, was issued by the leaders of the four main Churches in Ireland today. I am forwarding it to you for information.
In keeping with the strong recommendations in this statement, it is now the Diocesan policy of the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora that from Sunday August 30, we are formally recommending and strongly encouraging the wearing of face coverings at all masses and liturgical celebrations in our churches until further notice, along with the ongoing maintenance of 2 metre physical distancing between members of the congregation, and four metres physical distancing between the celebrant and the front row of the congregation.
It would not be appropriate for the celebrant or the minister of the Word to wear face coverings while ministering in the sanctuary, but they should at all times continue to maintain at least 2 metres physical distancing from one another.
Some people, for good reasons, are exempted from the wearing of face coverings, even in contexts where it is normally mandatory. Those same reasons apply when people come to Mass and should, of course, be respected.’
Bishop Brendan also wrote: ‘On a separate point, the situation regarding religious services in places of worship (including funerals) remains unchanged (i.e. pods of up to 50 with social distancing etc., with the exception of counties Laois, Offaly and Kildare where the number is 25 at present). However, the maximum number permitted at an outdoor burial is 15, in line with the Government statement of 18 August.
It has been a difficult and challenging time for all people in our country, and not least for parishes. We have been blessed particularly in the many volunteers who have come forward and are doing immense work to ensure the safety and protection of all people who come to church.’
Here is the statement issued by the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Primates of All Ireland, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland:
‘At this time, both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, the governments have not formally made mandatory the wearing of face coverings at services of worship. This is, in part, due to the fact that as churches we are committed to maintaining 2 metre physical distancing between household groups and strict adherence to all government guidance on hand hygiene, cleaning, ventilation etc.
It, however, remains our responsibility to ensure that our services of worship are safe places for all who join with us. It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc., is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others. Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours.
Following further recent consultations with public health authorities, we join with Christian church leaders all over this island in formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of 2 metre physical distancing, from Sunday 30 August 2020, and earlier if practicable.
We understand that some people are exempted from the wearing of face coverings, as outlined in the two jurisdictions.
We also recognise that whilst it may not be appropriate for those who are leading from the front during worship, including preaching, to wear face coverings, they should at all times continue to maintain at least 2 metre physical distancing from one another, and 4 metre physical distancing from the front row of the congregation.’
The Most Revd Eamon Martin
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Most Revd John McDowell
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
The Rt Revd Dr David Bruce
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Revd Dr Tom McKnight
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland