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Church services in Northern Ireland to move online once again because of the current Covid-19 wave

Religious leaders say they recognise the need to limit people's movements

Tipperary church appeals for volunteers to help with reopening

Church services in Northern Ireland are to move online once again because of the current high number of Covid-19 cases.

People will be asked to stay away from their church from today until Saturday, February 6.

The decision will be reviewed at the end of this month.

The decision was taken by church leaders following a meeting today with medical chiefs.

In a statement, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland said they supported the decision.

"We recognise the efforts of so many in our parishes who have been working to ensure that our gatherings for public worship are as safe as possible and we welcome the continuing engagement between the faith communities and the NI Executive which has led to consensus between us on the importance of people being able to gather in person for worship," the statement said.

"At this time, however, we acknowledge and support the unequivocal message from public health authorities that the movement and gathering of people should be minimised and that as many people as possible stay at home for the sake of health, life and the Common Good.

"In light of our ongoing consultations and of the current serious and worsening situation, and in line with clear public health guidance that people should stay at home, we have decided that for a limited period (from midnight on Thursday 7 January until Saturday 6 February 2021, subject to review in late January), the celebration of the Eucharist and other liturgies should take place without the physical presence of the faithful - with the exception of marriage, funeral, baptismal liturgies and drive-in services (subject to regulations).

"Arrangements for recording and/or livestreaming, and making individual visits for private prayer are also permissible in accordance with regulations.

"We encourage parishes, where possible, to continue to broadcast the celebration of Mass - and other devotions and prayer services - online and on other media, knowing that faith and prayer can be a tremendous support to individuals and society during these difficult times."

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