New guidance issued on wearing masks at religious services
Church leaders across the island of Ireland have come together to issue a joint statement with guidance on the wearing of masks at religious services.
The statement has been issued by the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Primates of All Ireland, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
It states that while wearing of face coverings has not been made mandatory in the Republic or Northern Ireland, church leaders are formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of 2 metre physical distancing from August 30, and earlier if practicable.
The full statement issued by The Most Revd Eamon Martin (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland), The Most Revd John McDowell (Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland), The Rt Revd Dr David Bruce (Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) and The Revd Dr Tom McKnight (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland) reads:
At this time, both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, the governments have not formally made mandatory the wearing of face coverings at services of worship. This is, in part, due to the fact that as churches we are committed to maintaining 2 metre physical distancing between household groups and strict adherence to all government guidance on hand hygiene, cleaning, ventilation etc.
It, however, remains our responsibility to ensure that our services of worship are safe places for all who join with us. It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc., is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others. Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours.
Following further recent consultations with public health authorities, we join with Christian church leaders all over this island in formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of the two metre physical distancing, from Sunday 30 August 2020, and earlier if practicable.
We understand that some people are exempted from the wearing of face coverings, as outlined in the two jurisdictions.
We also recognise that whilst it may not be appropriate for those who are leading from the front during worship, including preaching, to wear face coverings, they should at all times continue to maintain at least two metre physical distancing from one another, and four metre physical distancing from the front row of the congregation.