Pastoral Letter from Bishop Monahan.
Re-opening of Churches for Personal, Private Prayer – Killaloe Diocese from May 18th, 2020 – A message for the People of the Diocese – Bishop Fintan Monahan
The decision to close church buildings in Killaloe was an act of solidarity and commitment to the national effort required to suppress the Corona Virus. Closing Churches was a demonstration of the depth of commitment (not just compliance) required to safeguard the health of all in our society, both the vulnerable and the strong. I fully recognise the huge sacrifice that closing churches has been for parishioners and priests alike.
At this point, following consultation at many different levels and much advice – it is time to consider reopening our churches in a responsible manner for private and personal prayer from the date of May 18th, 2020. In order for this to happen, each parish would need to ensure a safe environment for both parishioners and parish staff. This will require looking at the geography/layout of the church and putting in measures that will help facilitate social distancing and hygiene.
In order for churches to re-open in a responsible manner, the following need to be considered:
- Availability of hand sanitisers in appropriate locations in the church.
- Access to and flow of people within the building: If there are two entry points, could one be designated as an entrance and the other as an exit? How will social distancing be facilitated in the space? Can doors be left open to minimise the amount of touching?
- Signage: reminding people of distancing, hand hygiene, minimum touching of surfaces etc.
- Cleaning of the church: Can measures be put in place to ensure that surfaces are cleaned at least once a day? Who will do this? Can this be done by our parish staff or volunteers? Might the parish enlist the help of extra volunteers?
Masses will continue to be celebrated behind closed doors, but I look forward to a later stage in the roadmap, at the designated phase where it will be possible to recommence weekday Masses, and other liturgies with small numbers present, but we are not anywhere near this yet.
All of this will be open to ongoing review. Our first stage must be a gentle reopening of churches responding to the deep need for parishioners, some who have perhaps been in isolation for weeks, to call into their local church and offer a prayer.
At a time like this we as a diocese and Church Community redouble our efforts to look out for each other and continue to pray for each other at this challenging time.
Our thoughts, prayers, sympathies go out to anyone who has experienced illness, loss or bereavement during this difficult time, especially those affected by the Corona Virus.
The Prayer of Pope Francis for the month of May helps us in our time of challenge:
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.
“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always
from every danger, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.