The Archbishop of Dublin has urged Catholics to give a “good example” to society and “remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus”.
His call comes as Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer, told Dubliners that they need to assume that Covid-19 is circulating in the community and adhere to social distancing.
“The acting chief medical officer has drawn attention to the worrying increase in people contracting the coronavirus in the greater Dublin area. He addressed an urgent appeal for strict observance of all the hygiene measures that are needed at this moment,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
“It is important that our parishes and Churches give good example and that we remind people of our common responsibility to prevent the spreading of the virus.”
Speaking of his own experience, the archbishop noted that parishes have been “scrupulous in respecting the current norms”.
“Stewarding has been correct without being offensively martial. Numbers attending have not been great but there has been a slow increase as people begin to overcome initial fears. First communions and confirmations have taken place in small groups and I have heard many positive comments on the prayerful atmosphere of these celebrations,” he said.
However, he warned that there are indications that social distancing in some cases has become “loose, especially before and after liturgical ceremonies”.
“I know that the public health authorities have contacted several bishops concerned about breaches of social distancing,” he added.
Archbishop Martin noted that he had seen some examples in Dublin churches, via photos on parish websites, that indicate poor practice
“I would ask all parishes to examine carefully how they can foster staggered exiting from churches and prevent gatherings at church entrances,” he said.
“In addition, I would remind parishes that the norms which permit gatherings of up to 50 people or ‘pods’ of 50 people in Church buildings applies to religious services alone. For any other gatherings such as meetings or concerts, the limit is six people.”
Archbishop Martin explained that the framework document of the Irish Bishops currently requires strict limitation on concelebration.
“In such cases, concelebrants should receive from separate vessels. Concelebrants must receive under both species and it is not permitted for concelebrants to receive under one species alone.”
He added: “There is a growing awareness internationally that ‘visors’ provide less protection than face masks. While the current public health norms permit the use of ‘visors’ where there are health reasons for not wearing face masks prudence is advised.”
The archbishop also reminded people of their responsibility in informing authorities if they contract Covid-19.
“Should a participant at liturgies and especially a priest, deacon or parish worker contract the virus, they should inform the public health authorities and facilitate tracing measures and follow public health advice regarding deep cleaning of the church building where this is required,” he said.
“Once again I am happy that for the most part churches are exemplary in their respect for the norms. The growing number of cases in the greater Dublin area would urge us to be particularly vigilant at this moment.”
Dr Glynn said the Department of Health was “particularly concerned” about the increase in cases of Covid-19 in Dublin and Limerick.
“The next week is vital and people really need to cut down their social contacts,” he said.
“They need to take all the precautions over the next week in those counties.
“They need to assume now again, unfortunately, that Covid is circulating in the community and act appropriately.”
Dr Glynn added: “I can’t say it strongly enough that people in Dublin in particular need to adhere to physical distancing. They need to cut down their social contacts.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 29th June 2020, shows parishioners wearing face masks. (Liam McBurney/PA).