Public Masses in Ireland with more than 100 people will not go ahead in coming weeks, according to latest Church regulations. However, some smaller Masses may continue during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic if the congregation is limited to fewer than 100 people.
But, the Church has announced that all Irish Catholics have been dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
In a communique issued this afternoon (Thursday) the hierarchy announced that all Confirmation ceremonies are postponed until further notice.
Church leaders have also insisted that “attendance at funeral services and Masses should be limited to close relatives and must not exceed 100 attendees within the church building”.
“Similarly, church weddings and baptisms may be celebrated on condition that the attendance in church does not exceed 100 people,” the statement said issued on behalf of the Irish bishops’ conference by the four Metropolitan archbishops.
On the issue of Sunday Mass, the bishops say that “in the current emergency situation, all are dispensed from the obligation to physically attend Sunday Mass”.
“Parishes should inform parishioners of the local possibilities to participate in Mass via local radio and online,” it said.
However, the bishops also said that “it may be possible for some parishes to facilitate attendance at Mass while still observing the health authority’s limit of 100 people”.
Other norms also include that the fact that all non-essential pastoral gatherings and meetings, such as formation gatherings, retreats and seminars are cancelled.
In the statement from Archbishops Eamon Martin of Armagh, Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel & Emly and Michael Neary of Tuam the bishops say that “this is an occasion for all of us – especially in families – to pray more intensely for each other and especially for those who have succumbed to the illness.
“We should pray also for those at the frontlines – especially doctors, nurses and medical staff and other carers, including clergy – that the Lord will protect them as they place their own wellbeing at risk in the service of all,” the hierarchy say.
It comes hours after the Government said that all schools should close and that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people should not take place due to need to contain the coronavirus.
The archbishops said in the statement that “these instructions complement the advice issued yesterday by the Irish Episcopal Conference and remain in place until March 29, 2020″.
“It is likely that these restrictions will continue for some time after that, and instructions regarding the celebration of Holy Week will be issued in due course,” it said.