Amid a “worrying” surge in cases in the Irish capital, Dublin archbishop Diarmuid Martin has urged parishes not to let their guard down with anti-coronavirus measures.

“It is important that our parishes give good example”

Full text of the statement of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to Dublin parishes

(Source: Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference)

The Acting Chief Medical Officer has drawn attention to the worrying increase in people contracting the Coronavirus in the greater Dublin area.  He addressed an urgent appeal for strict observance of all the hygiene measures that are needed at this moment.

It is important that our parishes and Churches give good example and that we remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus.

In my experience parishes have been scrupulous in respecting the current norms. Stewarding has been correct without being offensively martial.

Numbers attending have not been great but there has been a slow increase as people begin to overcome initial fears. First communions and confirmations have taken place in small groups and I have heard many positive comments on the prayerful atmosphere of these celebrations.   

There are indications however that social distancing in some cases has become loose, especially before and after liturgical ceremonies. I know that the public health authorities have contacted several bishops concerned about breaches of social distancing.

I have seen some examples in our Dublin Churches and indeed some parishes have published photos on parish websites that indicate poor practice.

I would ask all parishes to examine carefully how they can foster staggered exiting from Churches and prevent gatherings at Church entrances.  

In addition, I would remind parishes that the norms which permit gatherings of up to 50 people or “pods” of 50 people in Church buildings applies to religious services alone. For any other gatherings such as meetings or concerts, the limit is 6 people. 

For the moment the framework document of the Irish Bishops, requires strict limitation on concelebration. In such cases, concelebrants should receive from separate vessels. Concelebrants must receive under both species and it is not permitted for concelebrants to receive under one species alone. 

There is a growing awareness internationally that “visors” provide less protection than face masks. While the current public health norms permit the use of “visors” where there are health reasons for not wearing face masks prudence is advised. 

Should a participant at liturgies and especially a priest, deacon or parish worker contract the virus, they should inform the public health authorities and facilitate tracing measures and follow public health advice regarding deep cleaning of the Church building where this is required.

Once again I am happy that for the most part Churches are exemplary in their respect for the norms.

The growing number of cases in the greater Dublin area would urge us to be particularly vigilant at this moment.

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