THE Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin, has issued guidance to priests across the diocese as it announces plans to reopen churches for ‘personal prayer’ from next week.
Churches across the country have been closed since March, with only funeral Masses taking place since.
Plans are now being rolled out to open churches in the diocese on a phased basis from Monday, May 18. In a message to the priests of the diocese, Bishop Gavin said a number of minimum measures had to be in place before churches could open their doors.
These measures include ensuring churches are cleaned with disinfectant before re-opening, ensuring provision of hand sanitisers and public health information to parishioners, and partitioning sections of the church to allow for physical distancing between people.
Parishes must also arrange a roster of stewards to assist people’s compliance with public health requirements.
The guidance states that, during an initial phase, at least one steward should be present while the church is open. Where possible, only one door is designated as the entrance and another door is designated as the exit.
“This needs to proceed very carefully so that people can visit churches safely knowing that procedures are in place in line with government advice and HSE guidance,” wrote Bishop Gavin.
Parishes are being encouraged to initially open at least one church and to reopen the other churches on a phased basis.
“Many of our clergy and people who serve in key roles in our churches are restricted in what they can do due to government regulations. So it is important to plan this with the help of the Parish Assembly/Pastoral Council/church carers and Parish Finance Committee,” said the bishop.