Sacraments set to resume this month in Raphoe diocese

The Bishop of Raphoe is recommending that parishes begin to prepare for First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies from mid-August onward.

However, in a letter to the priests of the diocese, Bishop Alan McGuckian says that given the high rates of Covid infection in Donegal, it's essential the highest standards of sanitisation and social distancing are maintained.

Bishop McGuckian says many parishes have already made decisions along with teachers and families to hold ceremonies later in the year.

In some places, he says, after consultation with teachers and parents, and bearing in mind the dates for reopening of both primary and secondary schools, priests and communities might find it convenient to arrange ceremonies some time after Friday 13th of August.

He stresses it is very important that ceremonies are conducted according to the strict guidelines and protocols that churches have been following, and asks that it be made clear, in the interests of safety, that any subsequent gatherings be kept strictly within family pods.

As regards weddings, he says there is ambiguity in the Government’s new guidelines, with 100 guests allowed to attend wedding receptions, but many smaller churches only able to facilitate 50 persons under current Government social distancing guidelines.

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Letter in full -

GUIDELINES REGARDING THE SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION

After some months of celebrating Mass safely with our congregations it is now time to look again at the Sacraments of Initiation. The Government requested in late June that we postpone the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion until a later date. Now, along with the other bishops I recommend that our parishes begin to prepare for ceremonies from mid-August onward.

Many parishes have already made decisions along with teachers and families to hold ceremonies later in the year. In some places, after consultation with teachers and parents, and bearing in mind the dates for reopening of both primary and secondary schools, priests and communities might find it convenient to arrange ceremonies some time after Friday 13th of August. The delegations for administering the Sacrament of Confirmation that were given earlier can be acted upon from then on.

It is very important that we conduct any ceremonies according to the strict guidelines and protocols that we have been following to date. I respectfully request that it be made clear, in the interests of safety, that any subsequent gatherings be kept strictly within family pods.

As regards weddings we are aware of ambiguity in the Government’s new guidelines. They permit 100 guests to attend Wedding receptions. Many of our smaller churches are not able to facilitate 100 persons under current Government social distancing guidelines. Couples should be made aware of the limits that Government guidelines impose on churches.

We are aware that areas in County Donegal, including parts of our diocese, have the highest rates of infection in Ireland. It is essential that we maintain the highest standards of sanitisation and social distancing at all of our ceremonies.

+Alan McGuckian, SJ