Dioceses across Ireland have begun working on their own roadmaps for a return to public Masses.
Archbishop Eamon Martin said at the weekend that “our parishes and dioceses have now begun to draw up their plans and ‘roadmaps’ for a return to collective prayer as soon as it is safe to do so.
“It has been very difficult for us not being able to gather together in our beautiful church buildings. We’ve had to rely on spiritual communion.
The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has suggested that parishes begin to prepare a detailed plan for full re-opening of churches. Many in the diocese have only remained open for private prayer. He suggested that markers should be laid out and written plans be developed regarding hand hygiene and church cleaning.
In parts of the country where churches have been closed, many will start to open in the coming weeks under similar strict social distancing and health guidelines.
Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy insisted that “while it will be some time yet before we see the restoration of what we would consider a normal routine at parish level, journeys always begin with small steps, taken together and for the good of all and, especially, taking into consideration the welfare of clergy and the needs of all our people.”
He asked that parishes in Clogher to prepare for accommodating congregations and to begin providing for the celebration of baptisms and extra options for funeral arrangements.
Meanwhile, in Kildare and Leighlin where churches have been closed since March 30, Bishop Denis Nulty has decided to reopen churches for a short time each day for private prayer.
“For an ordered and gentle reopening to happen and to continue to support the national effort in supressing the Covid-19 pandemic, each parish would need to ensure a safe environment for both parishioners and parish staff,” he said.
“This gentle reopening of churches responds to the deep need for parishioners, some who have perhaps been cocooned for weeks, to call into their local church,” he said.
In Raphoe, there will again be strict rules on social distancing, hygiene and cleaning for parishes that wish to open.
Bishop Alan McGuckian stated: “This period of gradual relaxation will be important. We recognise that there is always the danger of complacency setting in which could have disastrous consequences. I believe now is the time to cooperate generously in the gradual process of relaxation.”
In Cashel and Emly parishes have been advised to prepare to reopen church buildings which have been closed since April 1. From May 18 they will begin opening daily for private prayer for a short time. Churches in Cork and Ross will follow suit on the same day.
Bishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly said: “This important stage of re-opening responds to the deep need of our parishioners to visit their local church to pray. The journey ahead is uncertain and there is still so much that must be recommenced within our churches. For now, let us prepare well for this first stage so that the other stages will follow without any difficulty.”
Archbishop Eamon also recognised the need to pray at this time. He said on Sunday that he is “sure that many people are growing closer to God through this crisis, realising perhaps that the way they have been living their lives has been unsatisfying”.