A MAXIMUM congregation of 50 at Masses – regardless of whether it is a cathedral or a small church – needs to be reexamined, believes Minister Patrick O’Donovan.
Services can resume on Monday, June 29, but currently indoor gatherings are capped at 50 people.
“Over the last few days several people have contacted me in relation to the opening of churches, particularly around the issue of 50 people per church regardless of size. They have contrasted some of our large churches with seating capacity of over one thousand to smaller ones with maybe enough seats for two hundred, yet the same rules apply,” said Minister O’Donovan, who has made the point to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris.
“Both understood the issue, and both said it is the correct course of action for the National Public Health Emergency Team to look at the issue. I hope that there will be early clarification for the various denominations soon, so that when they reopen they can take particular size and context of their church into consideration,” said Minister O’Donovan.
Priests, sacristans and parish groups across County Limerick have been busy preparing their churches for Masses to be said again.
Pews are being marked out to obey the two metre rule; hand sanitizers put in place and Holy Communion will only be given into the hand. In one church, stewards will be on the door to ensure only 50 people are allowed in. Once this number is reached the remaining worshippers will be asked to listen outside.
Separately, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) have expressed concerns over a list of 13 specific guarantees in the Church Readiness Form that parish priests are expected to sign off on before permission is granted for public worship.
In a statement, they say, “There is widespread unhappiness among priests with the expectation, indeed presumption, that they take individual responsibility for orchestrating this demanding and difficult task and by implication to accept blame for, say, a possible cluster of Covid cases in their parish.”
The statement from the ACP continues: “There is unease, upset and (in some cases) anger among priests that they are being manipulated, and (in some cases) effectively being bullied, into organising and ‘carrying the can’ for the reintroduction of public Masses and for whatever fall-out emerges in time.”
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