PARISHES DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Guidelines issued by the Diocese of Down & Connor – June 2020

Parish Offices continue to be closed to the public by directive of the diocese as of Wednesday 25th March 2020. Parish Office Staff will continue to work from home where possible. The motivation is to protect staff during this difficult time.

If you wish to make contact with Fr Brian, please telephone St. Luke’s Parish on 02890619459 or email stlukes@downandconnor.org.

All emergency sick calls and other emergencies should be directed to Fr Brian. He will organise an appropriate response.

 

Public Health Advice

We call on every person in the Diocese to adhere strictly to government health advice.

 

Churches, Parish Offices and Parochial Properties

As per government guidelines, churches can now be re-opened for personal/solitary prayer.

 

Parish Offices

Parish Offices and Parish Centres are closed to public access at present.

 

Baptisms

Baptisms have been suspended until further notice.

 

Weddings

Weddings in Exceptional Circumstances – From 15th May NI Executive permitted the solemnisation of Marriages where one of the parties, or an immediate family member is terminally ill. Such weddings may take place inside the church and are subject to the restriction of a maximum of 10 persons (including the couple and the celebrant.) and with social distancing observed.

Outdoor weddings

On 4th June 2020 the NI Executive confirmed that from 8th June 2020 outdoor weddings, including religious weddings, may take place with no more than 10 people present and with
social distancing observed.

The following norms and guidance will apply for any such wedding celebrated in the Diocese
of Down and Connor:
• Permission to celebrate marriages, in accordance with canonical and liturgical norms using the Rite of Marriage only.
• The local Bishop can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
• Each Parish should identify such a suitable place outdoors where it would offer such ceremonies to be celebrated. In the absence of an appropriate outdoor space around the parish church, an alternative at another local parish could be identified. The outdoor space should always be ‘sacred ground’ – i.e. the grounds of a church or other local religious site.
• Parishes should not be expected to provide canopies or gazebos or other forms of shelter. The erection of marquees would not be in the spirit of the regulation.
• The above, extraordinary permission to deviate from the norm of marriages taking place in a church, will expire when marriages can again be celebrated inside. This will happen in accordance with the steps outlined in the NI Executive’s Coronavirus Recovery Strategy, “Pathway to recovery” 4 and /or otherwise determined by amendment of the NI Public Health Regulations (2020

Funerals services, Requiem Mass and distribution of Holy Communion

Since the introduction of restrictions, given, the gradual and welcome decline in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, the decrease in the “R” number (the measure of virus transition), and the incremental relaxation of restrictions by the NI Executive on 15th, 19th May and 4th June:
• Funeral Services and Requiem Mass in the presence of the deceased and 10 mourners, whilst observing social distancing regulations, are now permitted in churches across the diocese.
• Distribution of Holy Communion during a Requiem Mass should be managed with the utmost attention to hygiene and minimal contact.
• Communicants should observe social distancing when coming forward to receive Holy Communion, maintaining maximum physical distance between communicant and priest, and the priest wears a suitable face covering for the purpose of distribution, offering Holy Communion solely in the hand
• The above guidelines on distribution of Holy Communion will be further reviewed when guidance is published by the Irish Episcopal Conference on the return to the public celebration of Mass and the sacraments.
• Conscious of the huge sacrifice many families have experienced and heroically made since the introduction of restrictions, we continue to hold them and their deceased loved ones in our prayers.

These guidelines will be reviewed and updated when necessary.