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Pastoral Statement from Bishop of Derry


The Coronavirus - precautionary measures and pastoral response 

Statement issued: Friday, 13 March 2020

The Coronavirus has created a lot of worry for many people. Matters are further complicated in this diocese by different approaches taken by the Irish and UK governments.

As a Church in this cross-border diocese, we have two key pastoral priorities at this time.

Firstly, we wish to take all measures within our control to minimise the spread of the virus.

Secondly, and equally importantly, we want to offer widespread pastoral support and encouragement, rather than merely adding to fear.

A. Precautionary measures

  1. Parishioners, clergy and pastoral staff should avoid being with others in public places if they show symptoms of illness, as identified by public health authorities.

  2. The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed until further notice. The normal routine of weekend Masses is suspended.

  3. Parish Confirmation ceremonies are being suspended until further notice.

  4. Further guidance will be given at a later date regarding arrangements for First Communion.

  5. Funeral ceremonies will be made available for all the deceased, in accordance with public health requirements. However, these should take place for immediate family members and not more than 100 people.

  6. Marriage ceremonies will continue to be celebrated. However, those in attendance should be fewer than 100.

  7. Baptisms will continue to be celebrated, again with no more than 100 present in the Church. The celebrant will take all appropriate measures to mitigate the possibility of virus transmission, in accordance with public health advice.

B. Pastoral response 

  1. Because of the widespread fear and uncertainty, this is a time when intense spiritual and pastoral care is essential.

  2. Priests should continue to celebrate weekend Masses privately, remembering, in particular, all of those who are most affected by the virus as well as the dedicated services of health care workers and carers.

  3. Churches should remain open and promote a prayerful environment through
    a. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
    b. Ample opportunities for parishioners to pray, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation or seek spiritual counsel. 
    c. Access to ample supply of Holy Water for those who wish to take it for personal use.  However, Holy Water should not be present in the holy water fonts
  4. Those who are unable to attend weekend Masses in their parish are encouraged to mark Sunday as well as they can by participating in Masses which are transmitted by radio, television or webcams. A list of churches in this diocese with webcams are available to view here

  5. Parishes are encouraged to maximise the use of devices such as webcams to develop and publicise a range of prayer moments during each day.
    These may include:
    a.    The Rosary
    b.    Divine Mercy Chaplet
    c.    The Prayer of the Church (cf eg
    d.    Prayerful reflection on the weekday or Sunday readings.
    e.    Stations of the Cross 

  6. People should seek and create circumstances where people can pray together in family units and with friends. This may involve some of those under 5 above as well as other devotions of choice. 

    This advice will be reviewed daily in the light of public health advice from the relevant statutory authorities.

    In respect to implementation:
    1. In the Republic of Ireland, the provisions under the 'Pastoral Statement' have immediate effect;
    2. In Northern Ireland, to allow priests to explain the provisions to the people, the provisions of the 'Pastoral Statement' will have effect ‪from Wednesday, 18 March 2020‬. 

    + Donal McKeown
    Bishop of Derry

A video message from Bishop Donal

A short video message from Bishop Donal McKeown on the diocese precautionary and pastoral response to the Coronavirus situation in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

Related information

  •  List of churches in the Diocese that broadcast Mass services live online can be viewed here
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Homily - World Day of Peace - Bishop McKeown

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Diocesan Offices
St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP

Tel: 028 7126 2302

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