By Cian Molloy - 05 July, 2020
News that the faithful can celebrate the Eucharist together this Sunday is being “received in parishes everywhere with relief and joy”, declared Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, who says that thanks to a Herculean effort by parish teams, church doors can safely open for the public celebration of Mass and other religious ceremonies.
The archbishop gave a warm welcome to the new government protocols that allow more than 50 people to gather to pray where appropriate safety measures are observed.
Describing the new protocol as ‘detailed guidance’, Dr Neary said that the decision, last March to cancel Masses and other religious services with congregations was ‘unprecedented’.
“While this step was necessary, it has been difficult for priests and parishioners everywhere,” the church leader acknowledged.
He noted that while parish teams had quickly responded to the COVID-19 situation in the most imaginative of ways – including the use of social media platforms, webcams and parish radio systems – it was a fact of life that people have not been able to attend Mass or receive Holy Communion for more than three months now.
“Almost as soon as the restrictions were introduced, the Western Bishops – Achonry, Clonfert, Elphin, Galway, Killala, and Tuam – set about preparing a detailed protocol for the re-opening of churches and the resumption of the celebration of Mass and the sacraments,” the archbishop reported. He revealed that a guidance document for reopening has been circulated to parishes for some time.
“Since then teams of volunteers have been trained, churches have been prepared and marked out according to social distancing guidelines, and hand-sanitising stations have been sourced and put in place,” said Archbishop Neary.
“I am grateful for this Herculean effort that sees us ready now to resume the sacramental life of the church in line with the guidance published by government.”