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17/10/2021

Bookings introduced for busy Christmas Day Masses

Bookings introduced  for busy  Christmas Day Masses

Members of a County Derry parish are to be given the chance to book a space at Christmas Day Masses.

New Covid-19 restrictions coming into force on Friday will see all local churches close for two weeks.

While there is no assurances at this stage, it is hoped that the churches will be able to re-open again in December, particularly in time for Christmas.

However, even if public church services are allowed to resume, numbers are expected to be restricted around Christmas time when churches traditionally see a large increase in the number of people attending services.

One local parish, St Mary’s Bellaghy/St Joseph’s Ballyscullion, is planning ahead and is to bring in a booking system for the Christmas Masses.

At St Mary's Church in Bellaghy, there three Masses on Christmas Eve, at 4pm, 6.30pm and 9pm.

On Christmas Day, it is planned that three Masses will be held at 8am, 10am and 11.30am.

The parish said that a maximum of 120 people will be admitted for each service.

Anyone who would like to attend the Masses can book a space on the website mass-time.com.

The bookings for Christmas Masses at St Mary's Church will go live on the website at 12 noon on Monday, November 30.

A spokesperson for the lcoal parish said that if people do not get a space for their chosen service, they can try to book a place at one of the other Masses.

“We ask people to make a reservation for one Mass only as we wish to accommodate as many as possible.

“If all masses are booked out you can still come to the car park and listen to a particular Mass and be welcome to receive Holy Communion after the congregation has received.”

Meanwhile, at St Joseph's Church in Ballyscullion, there will be a Mass at 6pm on Christmas Eve and a service at 9am on Christmas Day.

The parish spokesperson said bookings for these services will be available to book via a Whatsapp group from December 8.

If churches services are allowed to resume in December, more parishes are expected to follow St Mary's/St Joseph's example and bring in a booking system for the popular Christmas Masses.

Disappointment

Meanwhile, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has criticised the decision to close churches on Friday as part of new lockdown restrictions.

Archcishop Eamon Martin said the 'unexpected news' last week that churches across Northern Ireland are to close for two weeks Friday had come as a 'great disappointment'.

He said the decision was contrary to the assurances given to faith groups at a meeting earlier this month.

"Our parishes have consistently tried to support the Executive and public health authorities and we will do so again, but we would prefer to do so in mature partnership and dialogue," said the Derry man.

"The Catholic Church always wishes to protect health and life and promote the Common Good and therefore will continue to play its part in making the necessary sacrifices, but we urgently request that the ban on public worship will be for the shortest period possible.

"I seek urgent clarification on the question of whether churches may open for individual visits and private prayer.

"This issue was the subject of debate during the first lockdown and we were confident that it was understood that Churches are places of sanctuary, calm, and spiritual strength during this crisis.

"I cannot understand how a person may still go to an off-licence to buy alcohol but might not be permitted to visit and sit in quiet solitary prayer in a large church.”

Important

"The right to do this is particularly important for Catholics.

"The restrictions will coincide with the beginning of the holy season of Advent, a sacred time of preparation for Christmas.

"In speaking about “saving Christmas”, I urge the Executive to accept that for many people a “meaningful Christmas” is about more than shopping, eating and drinking. Spiritual preparation is essential."

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