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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop Burrows’ comments related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions

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Dear Friends

Re: Coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions

While we must of course in present  circumstances respect the authorities and those who have a duty to see to public safety, please note the following few comments which I have made to clergy colleagues in this diocese :

*The situation is potentially serious indeed, but some measure of calm is also necessary. On the other hand it may be the case in due course that there may be certain restrictions on public assembly.

*On a previous somewhat  similar occasion we did not decide to recommend absolutely withdrawing the common cup … but this time is different. Yet we in the C of I have to remember that those who offer public guidelines are likely to be conscious of prevailing RC practice , where communion in one kind for the laity is customary anyway. For us, the withdrawal of the cup is genuinely a big issue, and requires truly  compelling reasons and explanation. The Prayer book on page 440 provides a measure of comfort, but it is not speaking of general Sunday worship.( I am in fact not even sure  we can actually refuse the cup to a communicant who explicitly wishes to receive it. )

*There is also a pastoral balance involved in all this … physical actions in church may offer a unique moment of reconciliation, or be the only time in the week when a lonely person experiences actual human contact.

*I say these things not out of any foolish desire to undermine  the recommendations , but so that we do not forget that there are serious issues involved which are actually pivotal to the totality of the Eucharistic experience. This is not solely   a matter of prudent caution .

*Now that we must indeed do ( and be seen to do ) these things for the sake of wisdom and safety, we should make absolutely clear that it is the intention to restore normal practice as soon as ever possible. This may seem a silly point, but in this world which is so obsessed with health and safety ( and obsessive caution ) we could actually find ourselves in a situation where not receiving from the common cup became the custom, or the norm , or the long term ‘safe’ thing. And that would be a sad rebuke to generations  of Eucharistic understanding.
*I unequivocally agree that we must immediately implement  the guidelines, but we have a right and a duty to make clear that their consequences for us are somewhat problematical   in both pastoral and sacramental terms, and that they must be seen absolutely as temporary measures in the midst of a crisis, and in need of constant review.
And of course it goes without saying that our prayers and our understanding go out to those charged with handling this situation in the public square, and with making good decisions concerning what is best for the whole community.


Cashel, Ferns & Ossory