CONFIRMATIONS COULD be postponed while the passing of collection plates is likely to be halted under plans outlined by the Association of Catholic Priests.
In a statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the priesthood outlined plans to try and stem the spread of coronavirus, including advice for anyone attending a funeral.
Hand sanitiser is set to be provided at church entrances while holy water fonts will remain empty during and the Sign of Peace will not be expressed by hand shaking.
After receiving Holy Communion, and before and after distributing, all priests and ministers are being instructed to sanitise their hands.
They have also been told to provide an alternative to the practice of passing collection baskets through the congregation.
Celebration of Mass on Sundays and on weekdays – including Saint Patrick’s Day – is set to continue as normal.
However, anyone with any underlying health conditions or those considered vulnerable is “dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend”.
“We strongly encourage people with such conditions to be spiritually united with their local community,” the guidance says.
“Where possible they should avail of parish radio broadcasts and webcam.”
People attending a service in church, meanwhile, are being encouraged to keep a safe distance from one another.
Those with underlying health conditions are also advised not to attend the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
“The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation will continue for now but may have to be postponed at very short notice in the light of future advice from the public health authorities,” the Association of Catholic Priests said.
As part of the ceremony, the anointing with the Oil of Chrism will now be administered without direct touch, in a safe and appropriate manner, such as with the use of a cotton bud.
In terms of the pastoral care of the unwell and the administration of the sacrament of the Sick, priests have been instructed use a cotton bud or surgical glove for anointing with Holy Oil which will be disposed of appropriately.
The Sacrament of Baptism will also be administered by priests signing the child with the Cross but without touching while fresh water will be used for every child blessed.
Anyone unwell is also warned not attend funerals while handshaking is also being discouraged.
“The Church awaits official guidance from the public health authorities in the event of a deterioration in the situation,” the Association of Catholic Priests said.
“While abiding by all such advice, the Church will always stand with the bereaved and do its best to ensure a Christian burial for those who request it.”
The full guidance can be accessed here.