GUIDELINES FOR THE CELEBRATION OF MASSES AND OTHER SACRAMENTS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN IJEBU-ODE DIOCESE

TO ALL PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS WORKING IN THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF IJEBU-ODE, AND THE LAY FAITHFUL

Dear Msgri. /Frs., Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). The last 5 months have been very unimaginable for the entire world with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, like St. Paul, we believe that it is for a greater good. We know how much the people of God had longed to be re-united with their faith communities in the Parishes across the Diocese. Yet, this had been impossible because of the pandemic. It was indeed necessary to pay attention to the safety of lives before any other consideration.

We, therefore, thank the State Government led by Prince Dr. Dapo Abiodun, who have been magnanimous in the management of the pandemic in our state. After several deliberations and inspections to worship centers across the state, it is now time to re-open our worship centers. We all know that the pandemic is real. Therefore, a lot of precautions must be taken. We request that strict adherence must be maintained regarding the Diocesan guidelines that is given in this circular letter.

Basic Requirements/ Protocols

Church premises and environment must be clean at all times.

  1. Parishes should ensure well ventilated spaces for worship at all times.
  2. Hand washing facilities i.e. running Water and liquid soap at the entry point and strategic places within the church ‘premises.
  3. Alcohol based hand Sanitizers must be provided at major entrances to Church premises. Worshippers are encouraged to always come to Liturgical celebrations with their hand sanitizers also.
  4. Proper refuse bins should be put in place within church premises and the surrounding so that people can properly dispose tissue paper/face mask.
  5. Parishes should have designated points for entry and exit clearly designated.
  6. Trained personnel are to check body temperature at entry points into the Church.
  7. Hygiene personnel to disinfect chairs, door handles and surface areas in the church at regular intervals (cf. with Health Department for further directions).
  8. Arrangement/ demarcation of pews: Not more than two persons should occupy a pew during Liturgical celebrations with congregation in order to ensure proper social distancing in the Church.
  9. Anyone coming into the church premises MUST wear a face mask. No face mask, no entry.
  10. Anyone who is sick or has any terminal illness is STRONGLY ADVISED TO STAY AT HOME.
  11. Only Priests should celebrate Mass without wearing masks. Other liturgical ministers on the Sanctuary should wear face masks.
  12. Priests should ensure that they wash their hands before the Mass in the Sacristy, before distribution of Holy Communion and after distribution of Holy Communion and at the end of Mass in the sacristy. N.B: The normal washing of hand during Mass as stipulated in Rubrics should not be omitted.
  13. Where processions are to be made, the shortest possible route is to be used and they should be with the ministers in a single file with the required physical distance maintained.
  14. The number of Ministers on the sanctuary should be reduced to the barest minimum. A lector and four Mass servers at most is recommended.
  15. Parishes should provide hand sanitizers for worshippers who will like to use it during Liturgical celebrations before receiving Holy Communion.
  16. For offertory collections, parishes are to devise other means of collecting
  17. offerings during mass and suspend the usual procession to the altar.
  18. There would be no offertory procession. The gifts for the Eucharist should be left on the Credence Table from where Altar Servers would bring them to the Priest for preparation.
  19. The Sign of Peace is to be omitted.
  20. Communion is to be given in the hand and it is not to be refused to anyone who chooses to receive on his / her tongue.
  21. Masses on Sundays should not exceed one hour, 30 minutes (1:30hr). While on weekdays, it should not be more than 45mins. Masses can be multiplied in order to meet the needs of the faithful but there must be a 30 minutes interval between each Mass.
  22. Priests are to constantly educate their Parishioners during Mass on the need to keep safe at all times.

On Celebration of the Sacraments

  1. In the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, the Priest should ensure that social distance is observed in the building where the Sacrament is taking place.
  2. Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick should be done with extreme caution. Priests are allowed to carry out this anointing with cotton wool and wearing facial masks. Communion to the sick and aged is encouraged.
  3. Marriages can take place but proper social distancing and the above guidelines should be followed.
  4. At the celebration of funeral Masses, proper social distancing should be properly observed and only the immediate family should be present during the Rite of reception at the entrance of the Church.

On Societal Meetings and Devotions

  1. Meetings of Societies and organizations in all Parishes can take place as from the day of re-opening of churches. However, social distancing must be observed and facial mask must be properly worn by those attending the meeting.
  2. In view of the re-opening, the 2020 Chrism Mass will come up on Friday, August 28, 2020 at St. Sebastian Catholic Cathedral, Ijebu-Ode. Attendance is strictly by invitation so that we do not exceed 200 persons in the Cathedral.

In conclusion, these guidelines have been drafted only for use in our Diocese. There are new things coming into our mode of worship. The aim is to protect ourselves and keep safe during this pandemic. Let us note that these guidelines are only for this time of pandemic alone and they are temporary. We shall monitor the situation of things as they develop and review these Guidelines according to the developments and as the need arises. May God keep us safe and command this virus to depart from our world. Amen.

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