RC Church protocols for reopening: Priests must be vaccinated

Shermin Gittens cleans church pews while Sharon Emmanuel mops the floors at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, on Monday, as the church prepares to resume in-person services after being given the go-ahead by government last week. - Jeff Mayers
Shermin Gittens cleans church pews while Sharon Emmanuel mops the floors at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, on Monday, as the church prepares to resume in-person services after being given the go-ahead by government last week. - Jeff Mayers

THE Roman Catholic Church has set out its protocols for the resumption of public worship, chief of which is that the Mass celebrant, be it the priest or deacon, must be fully vaccinated.

Bulletin 20 of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain's Health, Safety and Environment Committee was released on Monday – the first day of the resumption of in-person worship at all public religious buildings. It outlines the rules of engagement for a return to public worship in the RC Church.

All churches, chapels, parish halls and their contents such as furniture, furnishings and vessels must be cleaned and sanitised prior to hosting the first public Mass, the committee advised.

Other rules were that routine schedule of cleaning and sanitising between services must be re-established; and proper stocking of toiletries, with all toilets, sinks and sanitising stations having tissue paper, paper towels, soap and/or 70 per cent alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

There must be individual seating and floor markings to ensure worshippers maintain a safe physical distance of six feet apart in all directions.

The natural air ventilation of the building can be achieved by keeping open internal and external doors and windows. Oscillating fans and open vents on air conditioning units are to be used to aid the movement of air through the building and keep the space cool for all users. Natural air ventilation is preferred during in-person worship.

Last Friday, the Prime Minister said in-person, public worship would resume on September 6 with a maximum of 25 per cent of the normal number of worshippers in any one place of worship, be it a church, temple or mosque, and the service being no longer than one hour.

The committee said the church choir may number no more than three, including vocalists and musical accompanists. Choir members, worshippers and the celebrant must wear masks at all times.

The Archdiocese made it clear that following the expert advice of public healthcare professionals, it is the mandate of the RC Church that the following members of its congregations be fully vaccinated against covid19 before performing their respective duties in the church:

• Celebrant, ie priest, deacon

• Eucharistic ministers or anyone distributing Holy Communion

• Hospitality-team members, including those checking off attendees who pre-registered

• Choir members

• Lectors.

The committee also said registration for Mass attendance should be done in the days before the scheduled Mass through catholictt.org.

Worshippers can also call ahead to the parish secretary to book their place. When the maximum capacity has been reached, registration will cease.

All attendees at Mass are required to observe the standard public covid19 protocols.

Among other rules, going forward and for the foreseeable future, there is to be no sign of peace among worshippers as was customary before the pandemic; only The Body of Christ will be distributed and must only be placed into the hand of the communicant . Reception of Holy Eucharist on the tongue being strictly prohibited. There is also to be no distribution of the Precious Blood during Mass.

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"RC Church protocols for reopening: Priests must be vaccinated"

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