Pastoral Ministry during Covid-19 Pandemic

The Sacrament of Baptism

  • Except in danger of death, baptisms should not be celebrated until further notice.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

  • The normal schedule of Confessions in churches has ceased for the time being. The faithful should not approach a priest seeking Confession in these coming weeks unless there is a specific urgent spiritual need.
  • If a priest is approached by an individual seeking the sacrament of Reconciliation, all the recommendations regarding hygiene, no hand-shake, social distance etc. apply. Priests should hear the Confession in a large space with the penitent at a distance of two metres. It is recommended that priest and penitent should remain standing, if possible, as a way to keep the confession short and to minimize contact with hard surfaces.

Forgiveness of Sins and Easter Duty

  • Catholic doctrine teaches that if a person cannot get to Confession, it is sufficient to confess one’s sins to God, seeking forgiveness and with the intention of going when next possible to Confession. God forgives the sins and the person is renewed in heart and soul. When the opportunity then arises later to go to Confession, he or she should do so.
  • At his morning Mass on March 20th, Pope Francis spoke about this doctrine in words that can also help resolve any issue about fulfilling our Easter duty:
  • “I know that many of you go to confession before Easter… Many will say to me: ‘But Father…I can’t leave the house and I want to make my peace with the Lord. I want Him to embrace me… How can I do that unless I find a priest?’. Do what the catechism says. It’s very clear. If you don’t find a priest to go to confession, speak to God. He’s your Father. Tell Him the truth: ‘Lord. I did this and this and this. Pardon me.’ Ask His forgiveness with all your heart with an act of contrition, and promise Him, ‘afterward I will go to confession.’ You will return to God’s grace immediately. You yourself can draw near, as the catechism teaches us, to God’s forgiveness, without having a priest at hand.”

Pastoral Care of the Elderly and the Sick (First Friday Calls)

  • On the basis of the public health guidelines, First Friday house visits and other pastoral house visits should cease except in the cases of the anointing of those who are dying (see over).
  • Pastoral visits can be replaced for the time being with other forms of pastoral outreach such as telephone conversations with prayers and blessings. Priests can invite the elderly and sick to accept with a spirit of Christian sacrifice, this loss of a regular visit so often accompanied by the sacrament of Reconciliation and the reception of Holy Communion.

Guidelines for Anointing of the Sick/Dying during the Coronavirus Emergency

In order to diminish the possibility that a priest attending the sick would himself become infected and a source of infection for others the following guidelines, minimizing physical contact, should be followed:

1. If the call is to a sick person in their own home, during this emergency the advice of the patient’s doctor (GP) concerning the possible necessity of protective measures should always be sought and followed.

2. During the emergency it is recommended that in all celebrations of the Sacrament of the Sick, the priests’ hands be extended over the person for the blessing, rather than being placed on the person’s head.

3. If the call is to attend a person, in any setting, who is not a confirmed or suspected Coronavirus patient, the Oil of the Sick should be applied by dipping a cotton bud once into the priest’s oil stock and applying to the forehead and hands. The cotton bud, once having touched the person, should never be dipped into the oil stock a second time. Cotton buds should be disposed of (by burning) afterwards.

The priest’s hands should be correctly cleansed both before and after the celebration of the Sacrament. The outside surface of the oil stock should also be cleansed after use.

4. If the call is to a person who is a confirmed or suspected Coronavirus patient in a hospital or care setting, full isolation procedures will apply. The priest attending will be supervised by staff in putting on personal protective equipment (gown, mask, gloves, goggles) which will be taken off and disposed of inside the isolation area immediately after the visit.

In this case, a small amount of the Oil of the Sick should be brought in a container such as a medical sample bottle (which can be sourced at the hospital) and applied to the sick person using a cotton bud. The cotton bud and the container must both be disposed of (inside the isolation area with medical waste for incineration) immediately after use.

It is clear that some priests will themselves, because of their health condition or age, feel unable to attend to the sick person in their local parish. They may need to call on another priest from elsewhere to celebrate the sacrament.

Holy Week Ceremonies

  • The Chrism Mass will be celebrated on the Wednesday of Holy Week in the Cathedral attended only by the priests of the parish of Cobh.
  • The Holy Father has granted the faculty to celebrate the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper without a congregation to all priests. Obviously, the washing of the feet is omitted. At the end of the Mass, the procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose is to be omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. Priests who are unable to celebrate Mass should instead pray Vespers of the day.
  • With regard to Good Friday, following the celebration of the Lord’s Passion without a congregation, the church can be opened to the faithful so that the Cross may be venerated with a simple bow. In the Prayer of Intercession, there should be a special intention for the sick, the dead, for those who feel lost or dismayed (cf. Missale Romanum, pag. 314 n. 13)
  • The Easter Vigil is to be celebrated only in the Cathedral and parish churches, where and in the measure that there is a real possibility of doing so, established by the one responsible. At “The Solemn Beginning of the Vigil” the preparation and lighting of the fire is omitted, the Paschal Candle is lit, the procession is omitted and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) follows. The Liturgy of the Word then takes place. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” alone is necessary. The “Liturgy of the Eucharist” then follows. Those who have absolutely no possibility of uniting themselves to the Paschal Vigil celebrated in a church should pray the Office of Readings for Easter Sunday.


A particular concern is the issue of funerals. Attendance at funerals should be restricted to the immediate family. The desire to offer condolences is commendable. Indeed, it is a work of mercy. But condolences can be expressed in the form of a letter, a text message, an e-mail. The Covid-19 crisis will pass and there will be other possibilities for Mass or prayers to be said for those who die during this period. Such Masses and prayers will allow for people who cannot now come physically to the church to then come and offer their condolences.

We recommend that all Catholic funeral liturgies in the Diocese be limited to the funeral Mass. In other words, there should be no removal to the church the evening before. The priest celebrating the funeral Mass should be the only priest officiating. In order to respect the social distancing guideline reception of Holy Communion may not take place at the funeral Mass but future opportunities will make this possible.

Mass should not be offered in family homes even in the circumstance of a bereavement.