1. Celebrations of Holy Mass
Priests (parish priests and assistant priests) who hold parochial office should continue to celebrate Mass in a church within their parish, without the faithful, on a daily basis. Other priests (i.e. those retired from office or entrusted with a non-parochial ministry) may celebrate Mass without the faithful in a church, chapel or their private home.
It is permissible to have one other person, who may be a deacon, present at the celebration of the Mass to make the necessary responses. Deacons should not otherwise participate in these celebrations. The other person must not be in any vulnerable category with respect to COVID-19. There must not, however, be more than one other person with the priest, whether a deacon or a lay person.
Apart from an exceptional circumstance, which requires the permission of the Archbishop, there should not be any concelebration. Where two priests concelebrate, in order that one might also make the responses, Holy Communion should be by personal intinction (as is the common practice in Roman Basilicas). The principal celebrant should then consume the remaining Precious Blood and purify the chalice in the normal way. Where a deacon or lay person assists, Holy Communion should only be given as the Host in the hand. Before and after the celebration of Mass there should handwashing by the priest and other participant and there should only be a verbal sign of peace.
The continuing celebration of Mass ensures that the faithful can join in spiritual communion with the priests of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pascha has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.’ (CCC 1364) Daily liturgical resources for those at home, including those for making a Spiritual Communion, will be available on the CBCEW website.
Wherever possible, during this period, churches will remain open, especially on Sundays, for individual private prayer, without any organised services, and offering prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
2. The Sacrament of Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism should be deferred until such time that the public health advice is that congregations can gather safely. In case of necessity, baptisms should be celebrated with all the hygiene precautions that have been laid down by the Church in its COVID-19 advice.
3. The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Confession may be offered on request as long as hygiene and social distancing requirements are observed (e.g. a physical barrier between the penitent and the priest such as a grille and cloth). The use of Rite II and Rite III of the Rite of Penance is not permitted as this, by necessity, requires the gathering of people in our churches. It is not permitted for people to queue for confession in close proximity.
4. First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion
These celebrations should be postponed until a time that allows for families and friends to gather safely within our churches.
5. The Sacrament of Confirmation
The celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation should be deferred until such time that the public health advice is that congregations can resume public worship.
6. The Sacrament of Matrimony
If possible, the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony should be deferred until such time that people can gather in numbers safely. However, if this is not possible and only in the most pressing of circumstances, then those present for the marriage should be restricted to the celebrant, bride and groom and immediate family, and if necessary, the legal Registrar.
7. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
No pastoral visits should be made to people who are self-isolating until the isolation period ends. However, please offer telephone support. When anointing the sick, the Oil of the Sick can be applied using a cotton bud which can be burned afterwards (one end should be used to anoint the head and the other to anoint the hands). The priest extend his hands over the sick person for laying on of hands, but without physical contact. This has been confirmed as a valid mode of celebrating the sacraments which involve ‘laying on of hands.’ Visits to people in nursing and care homes, hospitals or hospices should follow the advice of healthcare staff on infection control.
8. Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil
This will be dependent on the forthcoming decisions of the Bishops for the Holy Week ceremonies.
9. Funeral Liturgies
There must be great pastoral sensitivity to this issue. The funeral service should take place at the graveside or at a crematorium, subject to the conditions laid down by the cemetery or crematorium authorities. Arrangements should be made for a Mass to be celebrated in memoriam when congregations are allowed to gather.