By Cian Molloy - 07 June, 2020
The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, has announced that funeral services are to be resumed in his diocese ‘with immediate effect’.
However, for the time being, the number of mourners present will be limited to a maximum of 10 and social distancing regulations must be observed.
In March, the bishop issued a pastoral letter outlining measures to be taken in response to COVID-19 and these included the closing of churches across the diocese, which includes Belfast.
“There is no doubt that the greatest cross has been carried by those who have lost loved ones over these past few months as they have been unable to observe the rites and rituals associated with mourning that are so much part of our faith and culture,” said the bishop. “Conscious of the huge sacrifice many families have experienced and heroically made since the introduction of restrictions, we continue to hold them and their deceased loved ones in prayer.”
Now with “the gradual and welcome decline in the number of COVID-19 related deaths”, Dr Treanor believes it is an appropriate time to reintroduce the practice of funeral services and requiem Masses. However, because of the need to safeguard the health and well-being of clergy, especially those who need to self-isolate, mourners may find that a requiem Mass will have to be celebrated in a neighbouring parish rather than the home parish of the deceased.
Additionally, Bishop Treanor is looking at how to facilitate the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage within the Northern Ireland Executive’s current legislative framework and in accordance with sacramental practice and Church norms.
The bishop noted that numerous couples have had to postpone their marriages, because they were “unable to gather and commit their lives together in the presence of families, friends and the Church community”. He said that guidance and directives on marriages will be circulated by the diocese shortly.
“The tentative steps taken recently on the pathway to recovery have been achieved by the sacrifice of all in the common pursuit of health and safety. With a strong sense of duty, community responsibility and, above all, care for each other, many people have exercised personal responsibility in willingly limiting their freedom to protect their families, themselves and wider society. In protecting those around us, we protect ourselves and those we love.
“For the continuing good of all we must continue to remain clear sighted and vigilant to the real and present threat of the coronavirus.
“In the interests of public safety, may we all continue to follow the public health advice and guidance and maintain social distancing at all times. The responsible exercise of our personal freedom in the choices we make in the weeks and months ahead is vital for our own health and for the health of our families, neighbours and friends.”