THE LEADERS of Ireland's churches have come together to issue a plea to all worshippers to wear facemasks while attending services to protect the most vulnerable in society.
The Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church released a joint statement urging those who attend services to show "practical love to our neighbours" by adhering to public health guidelines.
In both the Republic and the north, face masks are recommended while attending religious services, but these recommendations are not mandatory and are not based in law, and it is up to the community to ensure curb the spread of the virus.
"It... remains our responsibility to ensure that our services of worship are safe places for all who join with us," the statement, issued yesterday, reads.
"It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc., is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others.
"Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours."
Accepting that some people cannot wear face coverings due to medical reasons, the religious leaders urged worshippers to maintain a 2 metre distance from one another at all times, particularly preachers or priests whose use of a face mask may be inappropriate if speaking from the pulpit.
The letter to worshippers was signed by Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland Dr David Bruce, and President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Dr Tom McKnight.
The four leaders asked worshippers to adhere to the guidelines from 30 August at the latest, and earlier if at all possible.
Under new restrictions in the Republic of Ireland, the number of people present in indoor gatherings has been reduced to six-- however, this does not affect religious services.
At the time of writing, a maximum of 50 people are allowed to attend indoor religious services once social distancing measures are adhered to.