The Bishops of the Munster province have issued a message of encouragement in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Bishops acknowledged the “generous spirit of social responsibility” shown by the sacrifices many are making to cope with the wider effects of Covid-19, and expressed gratitude to those working in healthcare and public services who are dealing with the fall-out from the virus.

Bishops emphasised that it is a time to rediscover the importance of prayer, particularly at home with family, and said “It has been uplifting to see how many have accessed media outlets to follow Mass, take part in prayer moments, and seek out other prayer and religious resources online.” Bishops also expressed gratitude to the all priests of their seven diocese, especially the elderly, for celebrating Mass daily for the intentions of all the faithful and making new arrangements to communicate pastorally through telephone and social media.

With regards to Funeral Masses and the Sacrament of the Sick, bishops offered a number of clear guidelines. They said, “In our view attendance at funerals should be restricted to the immediate family and very close friends…condolences can be expressed in the form of a letter, a text message, an email.

“The Covid-19 crisis will pass and there will be other possibilities for Mass or prayers to be said for those who die during this period. Such Masses and prayers will allow for people who cannot now come physically to the church to then come and offer their condolences.”

Bishops continued, “We recommend that all Catholic funeral liturgies in our dioceses be limited to the funeral Mass. In other words, there should be no removal to the church the evening before. We strongly advise that the priest celebrating the funeral Mass should be the only priest officiating. Mass should not be offered in family homes even in the circumstance of a bereavement.

“With regard to the Sacrament of the Sick to the dying (‘Last Rites’) which may be as, or even more critical than healthcare for some, it is essential that in anointing the sick, the priest should use a cotton bud or surgical glove for the anointing with Holy Oil and dispose of them appropriately. The rite should be administered while at a distance of one metre. The priest should avoid contact with others in the home of the person who is seriously ill.”

In conclusion, the bishops said, “Let us recall Saint Paul’s words in the Letter to the Ephesians that we are called to a spirit of solidarity, that is, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, to bear with one another in love” (Eph 4:1-2).”

The statement has been issued in the names of Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel & Emly; Bishop William Crean of Cloyne; Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick; Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry; Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford & Lismore; Bishop Fintan Monaghan of Killaloe; and Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork & Ross.

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