By Cian Molloy - 21 March, 2020
The Diocese of Ferns has become the latest to halt the public celebration of Masses in response to the Covid-19 crisis, but Bishop Denis Brennan insists that “Church is not suspended”.
The decision in Ferns came into effect yesterday, although all members of the faithful in Ireland were released from the obligation to physically attend Sunday Masses in a communiqué issued by the Irish Bishops’ Conference on Thursday 12 March.
And while Masses in Ferns are suspended, Bishop Brennan said in a pastoral letter issued yesterday that churches in his diocese are to remain open as per normal opening hours.
Baptisms, weddings and funerals will continue to take place in the Ferns Diocese, but participants will have to respect Health Service Executive on numbers, whereby only a maximum of 100 people may attend.
In the absence of Mass, there are many other ways that people can express their devotion to Our Lord and to worship him. In his pastoral letter, Bishop Brennan suggested the following: make “sacred spaces” in the home, read the Holy Bible, recite personal or family prayers, support volunteer groups who reach out to the elderly, the vulnerable and the poor.
“Any reading of the current situation clearly shows that we are living in worrying times,” he said.
“As bishop and priests, our primary prayer intention at this time is your welfare, and the welfare of your families and your friends. Our diocesan Church is united with the whole Church in praying for the welfare of all.”
The bishop asserted: “Physical attendance at Mass and gathering as congregation within Church buildings may be suspended. Church itself is not.
“Praying daily as individuals and as families, the daily offering of Eucharist by the local priest in your local church (albeit not publicly), and the simple outreach gestures to neighbours and friends ensure Christ not only remains in our local areas, it points to His very visible and active presence.”
The bishop concluded his message with this prayer, which he has asked others to recite:
Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages ‘curing every disease and illness’. At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care. Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another. Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders. Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow. Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.