"Having a public Mass in every church in every parish may be a price too high to pay" this Christmas say Association of Catholic Priests

"This is a time for reflection by all concerned: for placing safety and science as our top priority; for estimating the value of a token Mass if it might endanger health or life itself; for recognising the reservations of NPHET in regard to gatherings around churches; and, not least, for challenging churchgoers who rightly long for and who will miss their traditional Christmas rituals by asking them to sacrifice them for this one year for their own and the community’s health and safety."

Christmas Mass Times

Christmas Mass Times

The go-ahead for public Masses given by the government, after the last lockdown was lifted, creates particular difficulties for priests and Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs), especially in organising Masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day say the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

In statement issued today, Friday, December 4, the ACP said "Every parish is different in terms of priest numbers, size of churches and the resources available to effectively steward, sanitise and oversee the relevant protocols – social distancing, mask-wearing, etc – in order to ensure that the limited numbers allocated will gather for worship in safety.

"That said, every parish has this in common: huge numbers of people – way beyond the number at typical weekend Masses – traditionally gather in churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day."

The ACP said there are fears this year that the regulations on restricted numbers will be overwhelmed by the numbers expected to gather for mass at Christmas "creating a dangerous and unmanageable prospect".

"It is an open secret that there is huge concern if not alarm in parishes regarding how the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses can be organised and the need for caution in delivering a safe and manageable outcome," the Association noted.

The ACP says a range of possibilities need to be considered.

"Some parishes are closing their churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Masses online through a webcam facility. In other cases, this is being combined with the opportunity for individuals or families to receive Communion and visit the Crib on Christmas Day by attending at the church within a number of specified hours and with supervised protocols in place," said the ACP.

The point out that many priests and PPCs are being placed "under undue and unfair pressure to multiply Masses, to organise a ticket allocation system, to agree unrealistic and dangerously inappropriate measures to sanitise church buildings and to recruit unrealistic numbers of volunteers". 

"This is a time for reflection by all concerned: for placing safety and science as our top priority; for estimating the value of a token Mass if it might endanger health or life itself; for recognising the reservations of NPHET in regard to gatherings around churches; and, not least, for challenging churchgoers who rightly long for and who will miss their traditional Christmas rituals by asking them to sacrifice them for this one year for their own and the community’s health and safety.

"For parishes and churches there is no one size fits all solution and the worry (especially among priests) is that, with the end of Covid in sight now that vaccines are on the way, their particular church and parish may be the scene of a cluster of Covid cases – with devastating consequences. Having a public Mass in every church in every parish may be a price too high to pay. In present circumstances we need to err on the side of caution and wisdom.

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