In the light of the announcement by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. on 12th March 2020, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, has issued the following pastoral message to the clergy and people of the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.
Pastoral Letter from the Bishop
In the light of the statement of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD this morning, 12th March 2020, and having consulted with senior colleagues in this Diocese, I wish to underscore the vital importance of everyone in the Diocese complying fully with the requests being made by the Government, as well as diligently following the guidelines and recommendations of the HSE.
The recommendation that there be no indoor gatherings of more than 100 people clearly has implications for some parishes, organisations, and events, including Church Services, in the Diocese.
In order fully to comply with the request of the Government I am asking, therefore, that indoor events, involving more than 100 people, including Church Services ordinarily attended by 100 people or more, be cancelled from today until 29th March, the date announced by the Government. The request with respect to gatherings of over 100 people extends to public gatherings also for baptism, confirmation, funerals and marriages for the time being.
Where Services or events are continuing, however, the obligation is placed on select vestries and clergy locally to ensure compliance with the HSE guidelines including at risk groups, self-isolation, making provision for the washing of hands, provision of hand-sanitiser, and the recommended social distancing, for example. The up-to-date HSE guidelines are HERE.
Equally the particular guidance issued by the Church of Ireland concerning Church Services, including the sharing of the peace and the common cup should also be observed to the full. Those guidelines are HERE.
In the case of parishes or chaplaincies where ordinarily more than 100 people attend, local arrangements may, however, be made for churches to be open for extended periods of time to allow for private prayer.
Funerals and marriage give rise to different emotions and realities: times of both sorrow and joy in our lives. In those cases, where pastoral Services must be held, the limit of 100 people also applies, provided also, however, that the other requirements of the HSE as set out in their guidelines are adequately put in place.
I have a concern also for ministers in the Church – lay and ordained – who are themselves in the ‘at risk’ category and I recommend that they contact me directly about their own capacity to continue or otherwise in public ministry for the time-being. This may give rise to other contexts where Church Services also have to be cancelled for the time being.
I would wish to urge all church members in the Diocese at this time to show solidarity and to give such support as they can to everyone in the community, particularly to the isolated and vulnerable. Particular pastoral support needs also to be given to those who are disappointed following the cancellation of long-planned occasions and events of celebration. I know that many parishes will be creative and inventive in responding to the challenges of this time in order to be the Church at worship, at prayer and pastorally throughout these difficult days.
I trust we can draw courage and hope also as we recall that previous generations have faced challenges such as this, and greater than this, with fortitude, and have drawn strength from the Christian way of faith, hope and love.