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Set a high standard of safety in all parishes

Archbishop Jason Gordon has reminded clergy and the faithful of the requirement to maintain the COVID-19 guidelines.

Health officials have voiced concern of an increase in COVID-19 cases. Chief Education Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, at a Health Ministry media briefing March 22 highlighted an 87 per cent increase in COVID cases since the start of the month.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on March 25 advised both the Christian and the Shouter Baptist communities to ensure they adhere to the Public Health Ordinance Regulations with their upcoming events.

In a letter to clergy March 24, Archbishop Gordon implored all “to do their part to ensure that the faithful, and they themselves, strictly” adhere to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the Health Ministry and Archdiocese’s Health, Safety and Environment Team (HSE). On February 17, the HSE issued Bulletin #12 Guidelines for the Season of Lent and Holy Week.

The current spike in cases, including one that originated in a church, was mentioned in the letter. The Archbishop, and some members of the HSE team have received feedback that certain parishes were “flouting the COVID-19 protocols”.

In this regard, the letter urged that clergy “for the sake of the common good” recommit to strict protocols that have kept the public safe thus far. “It is vital that we set a very high standard of safety, pastoral care, and liturgy in all our parishes.”

All clergy were directed to familarise themselves with the COVID-19 Archdiocesan HSE guidelines to ensure the safe conduct of Masses and Services.

The letter went on, “this is particularly important in the Holy Week when attendance at Masses and Church Services traditionally increases”.

Also highlighted were specific guidelines for “special attention”: masks should be worn even when face shields are used, mandatory six-foot physical distancing and prevention of overcrowding by advance registration for Masses using the Calendly App or contacting the parish office.

When the maximum capacity based on physical distancing is reached, no further registration of attendance is allowed.

Parishes must collect the names and contact information for all persons at every Mass and Service to allow for contact tracing. Windows must be left open to ensure adequate ventilation even where air-conditioning units are used.

One amendment has been made to the guidelines based on the latest development with COVID cases. The Washing of Feet which was previously optional has now been amended to state that it is omitted.

Good Friday processions are not allowed. “The Way of the Cross can only be held inside the church. Those in attendance must remain in their pew.” Veneration of the Cross “could be done in the traditional manner, only by the priest(s)”.

Members of the congregation processing to venerate the cross must maintain the six-foot distancing and bow or genuflect.  For the Mass on Holy Saturday, the congregation remains in the pews: “Only the minister and servers are allowed around the fire for the lighting.”

The Archbishop’s letter stated a limit of one hour and thirty minutes has been set for Masses and Services. For persons doing the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) on Holy Saturday, if this cannot be accommodated within the time set, the candidates can be invited to attend the evening liturgy and the RCIA liturgy done on a fixed date when it “could be done in a meaningful way”.

To read the contents of the HSE Bulletin visit: https://catholictt.org/hse/