Archbishop Diarmuid Martin raises prospect of “advance booking” for Christmas masses this year
"We have to be creative in finding new ways of reaching out, especially to young families."
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said that changes may have to be implemented by the Catholic Church in Ireland over Christmas in order to ensure mass is conducted safely.
Current restrictions mean religious ceremonies have moved online once again, but with these potentially being eased in early December, Martin says expectations are there will be restrictions on the number of people permitted to attend.
"Many will wish to attend Christmas Mass, though the numbers may not be huge," Martin said.
"Many people will still be anxious about attending any large gathering of people."
He said the efforts made by parishes to prepare churches for services had meant the level of risk in the churches is very low but movement of people, the maintenance of social distancing on arrival and departure, combined with the presence of vulnerable people "are considerations that the public health authorities cannot ignore".
Martin added that there is a collective responsibility on the public to work together to curb the spread of the virus.
"None of us is to second-guess the severity of the situation," he said.
"None of us is authorised to self-exempt from the public norms. None of us is authorised to place people’s health at risk."
As opposed to traditional gatherings, Martin said "other possibilities" need to be considered, citing some suggestions in the US where advanced booking of services is required, as well as attendance of mass on different days.
"I believe that we could encourage families with their children to visit the Christmas crib for private prayer," he said.
"Each parish could provide some short prayer that could be recited on the occasion. To foster an authentic Christian culture of Christmas, in addition to online Masses, parishes could provide online ceremonies of Christmas music and readings.
"These could include celebrations for and by children, while respecting current restrictions. We could consider a simple parish Christmas greeting, to be delivered to families."
Martin said he believed that “one way or another, for the foreseeable future public participation at Masses will remain limited. This is the situation in which we will have to live and carry out ministry for the coming months and possibly even longer.”