RADHICA DE SILVA
In the lead-up to Easter celebrations, Archbishop Jason Gordon has chided some parishes for flouting COVID-19 protocols, saying one confirmed case originated in the Church.
In a letter dated March 24th, Archbishop Gordon revealed that the Washing of the Feet, all processions and the kissing of the statue and the cross will not be allowed this year.
“Several calls have been received by some members of the Archdiocesan HSE Team and also by me, to state that certain Parishes are flouting the COVID-19 Protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and by our HSE Team,” he revealed.
He added: ” For the sake of the common good, I urge you to recommit to the strict protocols that have kept us safe thus far.”
With the current spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, Archbishop Gordon implored all members of the clergy to ensure strict guidelines.
“It is vital that we set a very high standard of safety, pastoral care, and liturgy in all our parishes. I take this opportunity to request all members of the clergy to familiarize themselves and the faithful, with the COVID-19 Guidelines to ensure the safe conduct of Masses and Services. This is particularly important in the upcoming Holy Week when attendance at Masses and Church services traditionally increases,” he said.
While all the Guidelines are important, Archbishop Gordon said special attention must be given to the wearing of facemasks and physical distancing.
“To avoid members of the congregation sitting in pews/seats left vacant to facilitate physical distancing, no members of the congregation must be allowed to sit in those vacant pews/seats. It is recommended to use caution tape to prevent access to both ends of the pews,” he said.
He called on the ushers to pay particular attention to the regulations.
“To avoid over-crowding, those wishing to attend Masses or Services must register in advance, either by way of the Calendly App or by contacting the Parish Office, either by telephone or in person,” he said.
When registration for the maximum capacity based on physical distancing has been reached, Archbishop Gordon says no further registration or attendance may be allowed.
“The names and contact information for all persons attending every Mass and Service must be recorded to facilitate Contact Tracing. Where air-conditioning units are used in a church building, windows must be left open to ensure adequate ventilation,” he added.
He said while all Good Friday processions are banned, the Way of the Cross can only be held inside of the church.
“Those in attendance must remain in their pew. We need to find innovative ways of using technology to stream the Way of the Cross on Friday morning. Veneration of the Cross—during the liturgy on Good Friday evening this could be done in the traditional manner, only by the Priests,” he added.
He noted that the congregation must observe the 6-foot physical distancing rule, and those who venerate should do so only by bowing or genuflecting.
“Mass on Holy Saturday begins with all faithful remaining in their places in the church. Only the minister and servers are allowed around the fire for its lighting. The Time Limit for any Mass or Service has been set at one hour and thirty minutes,” he said.
He told his priests that they all must act responsibly and avoid risks to parishioners and the wider public.