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25/10/2021

All First Communion services in Derry have been postponed until September over concerns about parties

Bishop Donal McKeown says he has taken 'difficult' decision for public safety reasons

WATCH: Tullamore school posts message to children waiting to get First Holy Communion

The Bishop of Derry says he has taken the 'difficult' decision to postpone all First Communion services until September.

Many of the services were due to take place in the coming months.

However, Bishop Donal McKeown said he had decided to defer all the services until later in the year.

Bishop McKeown said he was concerned about parties which often surrounded First Communion celebrations.

“I have no doubt that parishes, with their extensive COVID safety teams, stewards and sanitising policies and procedures are safe places for the celebration of First Communion and Confirmation,” he said.

“However, I am concerned about the parties and other socialising which, although completely disconnected from the celebration of the sacraments and the environs of the church, can and often do occur.

“It must also be recognised that such parties and socialising are a matter for the civil authorities and, indeed, are currently banned under civil COVID regulations; it is for the civil authorities to enforce civil laws.

“Having said that, I think that, as church, we should go the extra step to assist in protecting public health, by avoiding those situations which might with some regularity lead people to organise parties.

“Therefore, I have taken the difficult decision, after some consultation, that the celebrations of First Communion are to be deferred until September 2021.

“I do not take this decision lightly, but I am conscious that we must do everything we can to ensure that life is protected in the midst of this pandemic, noting that there has been some upturn in case numbers locally in recent days.”

Bishop McKeown said that in relation to Confirmation services, it was acceptable for parishes to make provisional arrangements for these in the month of June.

“However, I will review the situation in the middle of May.

“Return to any form of normality for church and society will be slow and, in order to hold the progress that we have made towards normal practice of faith, patience will be needed in relation to the pace of such change.”

Church services in Northern Ireland are due to resume later this week.

Bishop McKeown said for baptisms there should be a limit on who can attend services.

He said baptisms should be limited to 'immediate family', meaning the parents, godparents and siblings of a minor who is being baptised. 

“If an adult is being baptised or received into the church, this may be attended by a spouse, their children and godparents.

“Where it is unavoidable that there are multiple baptisms at the one time, the total of people present in the church, including clergy etc, should not exceed 25, the family groups should not mix inside or outside the church and should be four metres apart from each other.”

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