The HSE has issued guidance for religious services throughout Donegal this weekend and for the foreseeable future with regard to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Alan McGuckian, has asked that the aspects of the document be brought to the attention of parishes.
Similar advisory guidelines have been issued by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Right Reverend Andrew James Forster, for the Church of Ireland’s response to the challenges.
The guidelines say people who are ill or feeling unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and who have travelled to Ireland from an area with presumed ongoing transmission of COVID-19 within the last 14 days or been in contact with someone who has, or have attended or work in a healthcare facility where patients with COVID-19 were being treated should not attend Mass or other religious services.
Parishes are asked to supply tissues and alcohol-based hand gel at Masses and other gatherings and to ensure that all hard surfaces that are frequently touched (door handles, hand-rails, taps and pews) are cleaned regularly with a household detergent.
Holy Water Fonts should not be used.
Ministers of Holy Communion should wash their hands or use alcohol-based gel before distribution of Holy Communion.
Holy Communion should be administered into the hands only and NOT on the tongue while this current situation continues.
The full HSE advice is as follows:
Settings where religious services take place, including churches, should take the following actions
- Advise religiousleaders/clergyand congregation not to attend if they are ill.
- Have a plan for dealing with religious leaders or members of the congregation who become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 during a service,including isolating them from other people and seeking medical advice without delay(e.g. phone a GP/ Emergency Services).
- Supply tissues and alcohol based hand gel at religious services/gatherings.
- Provide bins for disposal of tissues at religiousgatherings.
- Ensure hand-washing facilities, including soap and disposable towels, are well maintained.
- Ensure all hard surfaces that are frequently touched,such as door handles,handrails, taps and pews arecleaned regularly with a household detergent.
- Have a plan for how the church will continue or suspend its activities in the event ofreligiousleaders/clergy becoming ill with COVID-19.
Religious leader/clergy administrations to sick laity should be carefully managed.
To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in Ireland. If there is a case, it is highly likely that the patient will be treated in a hospital and their pastoral carecan be provided in the hospital according to established protocols and with full compliance with infection prevention and control guidance and inclose consultation with their treating doctor.
People at increased risk of getting COVID-19, including people who have been in close contact with aperson with COVID-19, may be asked to limit their social interactions for 14 days, including staying athome and not attending work or religious services.
In order to reduce the possible spread of infection,these people should not be visited by religious leaders/members of the clergy while they are in self isolation.
Pastoral care can be provided over the telephone/skype if resources permit.
Physical interaction during religious services, e.g. Sign of Peace.
Most physical interaction during religious services,e.g. shaking hands while exchanging the ‘Sign of Peace’ in Christian religious services,involves a low risk of spreading the virus especially if members of the congregation who are unwell do not attend religious services while they are ill.
However,because COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been seen in people before, we need to exercise extreme caution to limit the spread of the virus.
Current information suggests that COVID-19 can spread easily between people and could be spread from an infected person even before they develop any symptoms.
For these reasons we suggest that physical interaction during religious services, including the Sign of Peace,should be suspended.
For Christian religious services, the priest may choose to give the congregation permission to carry out an alternative Sign of Peace that does not involve hand contact(such as smile/nod/bow)if so wished.
The practice of shaking hands on greeting and departure at religious services/gatherings should be suspended for both religious leaders/clergyandlaity.
Holy water fonts
Because COVID-19 is a new diseaseand appears to spread easily between people, we advise that holy water fonts should not be used
Everyone administering Holy Communion should wash their hands or use alcohol based hand gel before beginning. Holy Communion should be administered into the hands only and NOT onto the tongue.
Using communal vessels for food and drink during religious services, e.g. drinking from the Chalice during Holy Communion in Christian services
To minimise the risk of spread of infection, the use of communal vessels should be suspended. For example, during Holy Communion in Christian religious services only the celebrant should drink from the Chalice.
No one else should drink from the chalice–this includes other priests, ministers of the Eucharist and members of the congregation.
Alternatives to direct sharing of the chalice should also be AVOIDED including:
1. Intinction, i.e.:the Communion wafer is dipped in the chalice and administered into the hand;the Communion wafer is administered into the communicant’s hand and they dip it into the chalice
2. Distribution of Communion wine through individual small cups
Arrangements for parochial activities/social religious gatherings
Parochial activities/social religious gatherings on church premises should follow sensible practices,including hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene as described in this guidance.
Posters/noticesformally stating any guidance or changes in practice should be clearly displayed and appropriate leafletsshould be circulated.
Further sources of information
Further information on COVID-19 is available on the HSE website at: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html
and the HPSC website:
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