As a show of “practical love for our neighbours” during COVID-19, Irish Church leaders have urged the wearing of face masks during services.

Face coverings and handwashing “likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others”

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 issued the following statement August 19 with respect to the use of face coverings during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic:

“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

Bishop of Ferns also “strongly recommends” wearing of face coverings, ongoing social distancing and sanitising of churches

In the meantime Dennis Brennan, the Bishop of the Ferns diocese in south-eastern Ireland in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin, also backed in an August 19 statement the use of face masks during Mass.

Bishop Brennan said:

“At this challenging time for the whole of our society, the diocese of Ferns reaffirms its commitment to social distancing and proper sanitisation in all of our churches and buildings so as to reduce the reach of Covid-19 amongst the faithful.

“Since March the virus has put the life of the Church under great stress, and I wish to express my deep gratitude to our local parish councils and church stewards for their patience and perseverance, as well as for their selfless overseeing of the safe return to public Masses and services.

“In solidarity with the vast majority of our fellow citizens who actively promote and pursue as safe an environment as possible – in their homes, their places of work and where they shop or gather – I strongly recommend the wearing of face-coverings as public Masses and services continue in addition to the continuation of social distancing and sanitising in all of our diocesan churches and buildings”.

Bishop Brennan concluded:

“May I ask you to remember in your prayers those who have been effected by the virus and our frontline workers, including priests”.

More on Novena on the Church and COVID-19:

16/6: Irish priests warn of “unease” among clerics over public health responsibility in post-COVID public Masses

9/6: Irish Bishops launch plan for return to Masses, say COVID aftermath “a tremendous opportunity to rediscover ourselves as Church”

Irish priest urges Church to learn lessons from COVID-19 “dress rehearsal”: “In a decade Sunday Mass won’t be celebrated in every parish”

8/6: COVID-19: Irish Primate calls for help from young people to manage transition back to full parish life


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.