We want to acknowledge the generous spirit of social responsibility shown by so many with all the sacrifice that it entails for individuals, families, business, parish communities and the wider society.
We have heard from many they are very grateful that churches have remained open. Indeed, priests have told us of a constant presence of individuals calling into churches for moments of prayer and recollection. It has been a consolation to know that churches are still open, prayer is always possible, and that there is a vast community of prayer and support available to us even as we follow the recommendations around social distancing.
A particular concern for us is the issue of funerals. In our view attendance at funerals should be restricted to the immediate family and very close friends. 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 our Dioceses be limited to the funeral Mass. In other words, there should be no removal to the church the evening before. We strongly advise that the priest celebrating the funeral Mass should be the only priest officiating. We give this advice on the basis of the widespread concern that everyone does their part to contain the virus. Mass should not be offered in family homes even in the circumstance of a bereavement. Normally, priests are advised against visiting homes at this time because priests themselves may be carriers of the virus without knowing it or the virus may be in the house.