More than 50 people to be allowed in large churches under new guidelines

Catholic archbishop welcomes clarity ahead of first public Sunday Masses in months

Social distancing measures at St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social distancing measures at St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has welcomed the new coronavirus guidance issued by the Government on Friday night in relation to places of worship.

The new guidance allows for religious services with attendance of more than 50 people in certain circumstances in churches with the size to allow such capacity safely. Details were released on Friday after a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19.

An assessment will have to be carried out for each premises to determine how many can attend within the requirements of social distancing.

The premises will also have to be subdivided into distinct sections, either by cordons or other markings, with a maximum of 50 people in each section. There will have to be a minimum of 4m between those sections. There can be strictly no movement of people between the sections before, during or after the service.

Each area must have its own entrance or exit route and there will need to be separate arrangements for elements of the service involving close contact, such as for the distribution of Holy Communion. The premises will also need to be well-ventilated. Those providing religious services will also be asked to ensure that there are staggered exit times for the congregation. The use of face coverings in such indoor settings will also be “strongly recommended”.

Dr Martin said parishes will work diligently to observe the new norms to ensure people can attend Mass safely. Dr Martin also asked parishioners to note that the use of face coverings is “strongly recommended for indoor settings”.

He said that while these norms do limit a more joyful return to the public celebration of the sacraments people have longed for, they are important steps forward and vital for the common good of all.

This weekend will see the first public Sunday Masses since Ireland went into lockdown in March amid the Covid-19 pandemic.