COVID-19 (Coronavirus) guidance for parishes in the Diocese of Derry
UPDATE 16 February 2022
Parish Priests and Administrators are encouraged to meet with their parish Covid-19 support teams and/or Parish Pastoral Councils to discuss making changes to social distancing inside Church buildings, with particular reference to their own Parish churches. It is recognised that parishes may wish to take a gradual approach, conscious that the Omicron variant is still rampant in communities and that many members of our congregations are themselves vulnerable.
Parishes are asked to undertake a risk assessment to ascertain what they are comfortable with and what best suits their congregation as a result of the lifting of restrictions. The risk assessment should include the resumption of roles for altar servers, choirs, concelebrants and others who exercise particular contributions to the liturgy. Anointing during the sacraments may resume without cotton wool and plans may be made for the careful distribution of the ashes on Ash Wednesday (2nd March 2022).
The Bishops’ Conference will meet in March to review the situation. Meanwhile the continuation of the following protective measures is recommended to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable or anxious members of the congregation:
- The wearing of face coverings inside Church buildings;
- Good sanitising and cleaning arrangements;
- Collections can be taken up, but baskets should not be passed hand-to-hand
- Suspension of a handshake as the Sign of Peace;
- Holy Communion to be received in the hand;
- Holy water to be used in asperges but not yet restored to fonts for communal use at the entrances to Church buildings.
While we are encouraged by the lifting of the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, we will continue to take care to provide appropriate protection and reassurance to all involved in Church activities. At the same time, priests should look to do as much as is possible to provide service to people, while respecting the gradual removal of restrictions.
+ Donal McKeown
Covid-19 and Physical (Social) Distancing
Coronavirus - Covid-19 - How it spreads
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Hand Washing and Sanitiser
Video | How to wash your hands
Physical (Social) Distancing
The demands of physical (social) distancing will also need to be considered in relation to people entering the church and leaving it.
In calculating the number of people who can be accommodated in your church while maintaining the physical (social) distance of 2 metres, please remember that the 2 metre distance does not apply to a household, which can sit together.
Indicating Physical Distance
Supervision and guidance by stewards outside and within the church building to maintain physical distancing would be helpful.
Sunday and Holy Day obligation
Priests/Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.
Priests/Ministers of Holy Communion should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.
Holy Communion should be received in the hand. The reason for this is not simply an issue of the risk of touch, but exposure to breathed moisture where a person receives on the tongue.
Unfortunately, the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue would expose the priest/Minister of Holy Communion’s hand to moisture every time, with the risk of passing virus contained in the moisture on to others.
Where a priest/Minister of Holy Communion inadvertently touches a communicant’s hand, hands should be sanitised again.
Ministers of Holy Communion
The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.
Readers at Mass
After each Mass, the ambo and lectern should be wiped clean.
Singers and Choirs
A cantor, well distanced from other people, is the most appropriate singer currently as, unlike a choir, greater distance from others can be maintained.
Allocation of seats - GDPR considerations
GDPR states that personal data is 'collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes;' It should be stated why personal information is being collected and when it is going to be deleted.
Consider including the following on the form asking for personal data:
[PARISH NAME] GDPR: I understand and consent to having my data included in the Parish database for the purpose of allocating seats at each Mass due the current physical distancing restrictions. I understand the parish will delete my details once the allocation system is no longer required.
Include a tick box on the form that the person can tick to confirm they give consent and they understand how you are using their data. 'Consent means offering individuals real choice and control. Genuine consent should put individuals in charge, build trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation'. Source: ICO
Using a Face-covering
Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times.
Do not touch the front of the face-covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face-covering has touched.
If you are using a reusable face-covering you should wash it regularly, at a minimum temperature of 60C. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent. Where a reusable face-covering is used, it should be used by the original wearer only. Sources: HSE and gov.uk
Video | How to safely fit and wear a face-covering
Wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished. Source: Gov.uk COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings
Using a disposable cloth, first clean hard surfaces with warm soapy water. Then disinfect these surfaces with the cleaning products you normally use. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as toilets, pews, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells, door handles, statues and candelabras.
Wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning.
Bleach need only be used in toilets. The dilution of bleach should be in accordance with public health guidelines.
It is not necessary to clean floors after each gathering.
Cloth hand towels should be replaced with disposable paper towels in toilet areas.
Help and Guidance
Telephone: 028 7126 2302 or 00 44 (0)28 7126 2302
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm