AN IRISH priest has told how mass rituals like Holy Communion and altar wine could be tweaked to become 'self-service' after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed.
Fr Iggy Donovan, an Augustinian priest based in Fethard, Co Tipperary, said that social distancing measures which will remain in play following the re-opening of churches, means that the Catholic church will have to make some big changes in order to remain relevant.
Traditional Catholic masses involve regular contact with both the priest and fellow worshippers, with the sign of peace obliging each person to shake hands with their neighbours in the pews, and priests placing the Holy Communion into either the mouths or hands of church-goers.
The Govenrment's planned phased reopening of the country has said that places of worship will be allowed to reopen on 20 July, but has stressed that strict social distancing must remain in play.
Fr Donovan spoke to The Irish Mirror where he said that the "virus has brought to the fore the crisis that was already there", in that churches have been closed for weeks but are hardly missed by most people apart from funerals.
“If it’s one thing the church has learned in the last few weeks is our almost total irrelevance," he told the outlet.
Acknowledging that "one of the difficulties we face is physical contact of any sort", he said "the idea of me physically handing communion to someone" posed "a real question".
However, he suggested that the church could get past this issue by allowing parishioners to collect the holy sacrament or altar wine themselves, "practically like a self service with a bit of cop on and common sense".
“You could leave the hosts on a tray and let people come up and take it while making sure you don’t touch any other host," he suggested.
“Or communion could be left at the back of the church and people can pick it up on their way in and during the consecration they hold it and consume it.
He also said it was possible people could bring their own goblets for the altar wine.
Maintaining a social distance during mass was important both for people's health, and because people could sue the church if they picked up the virus was attending mass, he said.
"You could actually end up where somebody says their health was damaged in the church and they were given the virus or something and they want compensation."
Tackling the issue of confession, he said they could be held over Facetime or via a phonecall, saying the traditional method of a parishioner entering a confession box with a priest was "unhealthy".