New funeral protocols are being introduced in the Diocese of Raphoe.
Bishop Alan Mc Guickian is recommending that on the day of a funeral, the priest offers requiem mass for the deceased behind closed doors, without a congregation present. This Mass could be relayed by webcam or by Facebook to the family gathered at home.
The Mass would then be followed by burial and prayers in the graveyard.
He said those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions should be strongly encouraged not to attend funerals even when all of their humanity seems to demand it of them.
Bishop Mc Guickian added if we stretch ourselves for a short few weeks, many lives will be saved.
Bishop Mc Guckian's statement in full -
Diocese of Raphoe 31st March, 2020
Press Release: update as a result of new Covid-19 guidelines
We made the sad and painful decision two weeks ago to cancel all public Masses. It was purely and simply in the interest of helping to save lives. Our people, though many of them were devastated at losing the possibility of regular communion, accepted that decision in the interests of the common good.
Last Saturday I communicated to the priests the decision that our practice at the time of a funeral should be confined to the prayers at the graveside in the presence of immediate family only. That decision was made after consultation with the Infection Control Office for the North West and a good number of priests. Today the Government has issued a new guideline calling for a limit of ten people present at funerals. We will continue with our policy of praying at the graveside only and strongly encourage families to respect both social distance and the limit of ten persons. Ongoing cooperation with Undertakers is much appreciated. I recognise the invaluable service they are providing to the bereaved now as at other times.
The Coronavirus is an extremely contagious disease and if we as a community do not do all in our power to abide by the restrictions placed on us many people may die, as we know is the case in other countries. For this reason I call on everyone to accept this extremely painful restriction. If we stretch ourselves for a short few weeks many lives will be saved.
My recommendation is that on the day of a funeral the priest could offer Mass for the deceased in the morning, behind closed doors without a congregation present. This Mass could be relayed by webcam or by Facebook to the family gathered at home. The Mass would then be followed by burial and prayers in the graveyard.
Those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions are mandated by the Government to stay at home and they should be strongly encouraged not to attend funerals even when all of their humanity seems to demand it of them. Many of our priests are over 70 and others are carrying underlying conditions. They too must be extremely careful in this regard.
We continue to pray daily that the threat of this virus will pass. We pray for those who have died of the virus and those who mourn them. We ask God’s protection and blessing on all of the frontline workers who are so deserving of our appreciation and admiration. We commit ourselves to look out for each other and to do all we can to protect our neighbours from infection.
With every blessing and good wish.
+Alan McGuckian SJ
Bishop of Raphoe