In conversations with priests and people around the Diocese of Killaloe in recent weeks many have expressed their serious health and safety concerns to me regarding the number of people gathering after funeral ceremonies in church and also at burials in cemeteries.
Whilst it is such a positive and deeply ingrained aspect of our culture in Ireland to gather and offer condolences to the bereaved family, unfortunately due to the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus it is still not safe to do so. While being sensitive to the needs of mourners for care and compassion at such a difficult time, many priests have expressed deep concern for the wellbeing of parishioners gathering in such a manner and I share that concern.
Since the start of the pandemic, at funeral Masses, mourners and families have been most understanding and patient about the public health limit of only ten people permitted to gather for such ceremonies. Clergy, parish personnel and undertakers have undertaken Trojan work with people in the context of these difficult, stressful and sad circumstances, and I commend them for that. However, it is in the gatherings of genuine and well-meaning people, before and after the funeral Mass, when such occasions, that raise concern, can occur.
People by and large are wearing masks at these open-air gatherings, but some choose not to. I appeal to people to take whatever precautions possible to maximise the safety of all.
I earnestly appeal to people to find alternative ways to offer condolences at this time of pandemic, and for the foreseeable future until vaccination has all of us in a better place. Perhaps a prayer, a card, a phone call, a letter, a text, a message on social media, lighting a candle at home or in your local church, would be a safer way to offer consolation with a view to offering personal support in the near future.
My prayers are continually for those who have been affected through illness and bereavement since the pandemic began. Let us all look out for each other, and together we will get through this difficult time.