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Irish Catholic bishops release new liturgical guidelines on coronavirus

By Katie Ascough - 13 March, 2020

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has released a statement on liturgical considerations in the context of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

The statement says that we are called to face the fear with “a courage not our own and with a generous heart”. The bishops remind us that God is with his people in good times and bad. They say we are called to “serve the common good by taking responsibility for each other” and that we should prioritise the most vulnerable ahead of our own individual wants and aspirations. “At this time our first concern has to be for the elderly, the ill and those with underlying medical conditions,” the bishops state.

They acknowledge that the directives “will involve sacrifice for all”, but encourage “a positive engagement in order that the most vulnerable amongst us can be protected and so that the coronavirus can be contained”.

In an updated version of their statement, the bishops state:

–          All non-essential pastoral gatherings and meetings, such as formation gatherings, retreats and seminars are cancelled.

–          All Confirmations are postponed until further notice.

–          Every Catholic is entitled to a dignified Christian burial. 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.

–          In these difficult and uncertain times, people find strength, consolation and hope in prayer. Churches should remain open for prayer each day.

–          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 may be possible for some parishes to facilitate attendance at Mass while still observing the health authority’s limit of 100 people.

–          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 front lines – especially doctors, nurses, medical staff and other carers, including clergy – that the Lord will protect them as they place their own well-being at risk in the service of all.

They ask everyone to continue to follow the guidance of the public health authorities north and south and advise that, as the situation evolves, Church-specific information will be updated and published on local diocesan websites, on the website of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference www.catholicbishops.ie and on their related digital media platforms.

The bishops also ask for prayers for those affected by coronavirus. They invite the faithful to place all trust in the Lord, to ask Our Lady to intercede for us, and to pray these prayers:

Extract from Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,

that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,

implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence,

I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.

To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,

despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer. Amen.

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