Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor has issued a statement on the re-opening of churches in the diocese for private prayer.
The statement was issued in response to the five-step recovery plan of the NI Executive outlined on the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
“The pandemic has not passed. We need to be vigilant and maintain good hygienic practices and safely exercise personal maturity and responsibility as our freedoms of movement and social interaction return. It is necessary and incumbent upon all of us to maintain the social distancing measures that have allowed us to keep the infection rate down. In protecting those around us, we protect ourselves and those we love.”
Within the five step plan, the NI Executive indicated that some churches may open for private individual prayer. On Behalf of the Diocese of Down & Connor, Bishop Treanor welcomed this announcement.
The bishop said, “Over the past few weeks, parishioners and clergy have voiced to me the sacrifice of not being able to gather within the sanctuary of the Church to offer personal prayer. It has been particularly difficult for families who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones. They desire to gain consolation in offering prayer to God as they remember their loved one before the altar of God.”
Churches in the Diocese of Down & Connor will reopen on an individual basis and extensive health guidelines have been issued to each parish to ensure the safety of parishioners who visit the churches for private prayer.
In conclusion, Bishop Treanor said, “All visitors to churches must strictly observe the social distancing regulations and good hygienic practices outlined at Church entrances. In the exercise of personal responsibility, anyone who is unwell or exhibits symptoms of Covid-19 should stay remain at home. Those who are at increased risk from the virus, and/or have been advised to shield themselves, should also remain at home. There is no obligation to visit Church and Mass will continue to be streamed privately via social media without a congregation present.
“In the interest of public health and safety, during this first phase of reopening of churches, visits are for individual, personal prayer and private devotions only. Organised gatherings for prayer or devotions are not permitted at this stage and the public celebration of Mass and the other sacraments remain suspended.”