“I am pleased with the announcement from the Northern Ireland Executive earlier today giving an indicative date for the opening of Churches in Northern Ireland for public worship from 29 June next. It is particularly helpful that parishes in cross-border communities will be able to plan together for a safe return to Mass around the same time. I have been heartened by the amount of preparation which is already ongoing in our parishes to ensure that our sacred spaces will be as safe as possible when we begin to gather again together in prayer. I expect that we will be beginning in a cautious way at first, and there will be a need for ongoing patience and careful monitoring of the situation.
“In recent days, having spoken to priests across the dioceses of Armagh and Dromore, it is clear to me that there is a strong desire from our people, religious and priests to be able to celebrate the Eucharist and have access to the other sacraments, especially baptism, marriage and reconciliation. I commend parishes for reaching out to parishioners in very difficult circumstances during the lockdown which included the broadcasting of Mass and other prayer opportunities by webcam. Since March, we have also been alert to God’s presence in the lonely and the suffering. Sadly the pandemic has brought great hardship to many families whose loved ones have died because of the virus. In a lot of cases it was not possible for family members to be by their side, or to be present at their funeral. God knows our grief and how much we need strength, courage, consolation and comfort at this time”.