A set of directives have been issued by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference on 'liturgical considerations' in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.
Included in the directions are keeping Holy Water fonts empty, no shaking hands for the Sign of Peace while those with underlying conditions and those who are considered vulnerable are 'dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass' although services will continue as normal.
People with underlying conditions, and who are vulnerable, should also not attend funerals while the Bishops ask that Holy Communion be received in the hand until the current crisis has passed.
The statement released states, "while acknowledging that the following directives will involve sacrifice for all, we encourage a positive engagement in order that the most vulnerable amongst us can be protected and so that the coronavirus can be contained."
The full list of directions are:
It is important that hand sanitiser is provided at each entrance of the church.
Holy water fonts should remain empty at this time.
The Sign of Peace is not to be expressed by hand shaking.
Having received Holy Communion, and before and after distributing, the priest and ministers should sanitise their hands.
Collection baskets: priests are asked to provide an alternative to the practice of passing collection baskets through the congregation. The faithful are asked to continue their generous contributions to the upkeep of their parish.
Receiving Holy Communion in the hand
We ask that Holy Communion be received in the hand until the current crisis has passed.
Sunday / Weekday Mass
At this time the celebration of Mass on Sundays and on weekdays - including Saint Patrick’s Day – will continue as normal. However, those with underlying conditions and those who are considered vulnerable are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend. We strongly encourage people with such conditions to be spiritually united with their local community. Where possible they should avail of parish radio broadcasts and webcam. While in church and as far as possible people are asked to keep a safe distance from one another, in keeping with current advice.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation is a happy and joyous occasion which brings people together from far and wide. We ask that people with underlying health conditions and who are considered vulnerable from a health perspective, should not attend the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation will continue for now but may have to be postponed at very short notice in the light of future advice from the public health authorities. The anointing with the Oil of Chrism will be administered without direct touch, in a safe and appropriate manner, such as with the use of a cotton bud.
Celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick
Concerning the pastoral care of the sick and the administration of the sacrament, the priest will use a cotton bud or surgical glove for the anointing with Holy Oil and dispose of them appropriately.
The Sacrament of Baptism
During this time the celebrant will sign the child with the Cross without touching. Where there is more than one child being baptised, a single jug of fresh water will be blessed and used. The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.
The community of faith will always seek to surround the funerals and burials of its deceased members with love and respect. However, even now it is clear that people with underlying conditions, and who are vulnerable, should not attend funerals. For the same reason, when sympathising, people should not shake hands.
The Church awaits official guidance from the public health authorities in the event of a deterioration in the situation. While abiding by all such advice, the Church will always stand with the bereaved and do its best to ensure a Christian burial for those who request it.
Concelebration of Mass
In light of our particular circumstances at this time, and health authority guidance, the bishops have given permission for only the main celebrant to receive from the chalice, when concelebration is deemed necessary.