COVID "RE-OPENING" DIRECTIVES & NEW COMMENTARY

June 5, 2020

N.B. The complete text of Directive #5, which was issued May 26, 2020, is given below! An additional Commentary on the Directive, issued June 5, 2020, is given here:

COMMENTARY (1) on DIRECTIVE # 5 - Re: COVID-19 Pandemic

(as of 4 June 2020)

Directives for the Re-Opening of Churches and the Resumption of Public Liturgical Services of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg

(On 26 May 2020, Directive # 5 - Re: COVID - 19 Pandemic, was issued for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manitoba. Its purpose is to guide the clergy and faithful in the resumption of public activities in their parish life. In order to address the various issues at hand, the Directive is lengthy. At the same time, it does not attempt to give minute and definitive instructions, as that would have resulted in a very long document.)

Prot. H/63/2020

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

It is with a sense of relief and hope for better days to come that the medical and civil authorities in Canada have begun to lessen the COVID-19 restrictions. We are fortunate that in comparison to other areas in Canada, the Province of Manitoba has rated low in the numbers of those afflicted and who have succumbed. Even as researchers and medical personnel continue to collect data on COVID-19 in an effort to better understand it and produce a vaccine and treatment, they caution against any attempts to return to a life style similar to that prior to the appearance of the virus. Yet, the media often reports on groups and individuals who are resuming a life style in a thoughtless and even reckless manner, rather than cooperating in this slow and careful resumption of daily life. There is always the danger of a reoccurrence of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

With this in mind it is important to highlight certain aspects of the Archeparchy Directive # 5.

1) Once the parish priest and parish council have studied Directive # 5 and are ready to implement its requirements, they are to decide when to begin public services and in what manner. They are to subsequently inform the parishioners of when public liturgies will commence. The parish priest and parish council take on the responsibility associated with public gatherings on church premises during this pandemic. There are many challenges here and church communities need to approach these matters slowly and carefully, to ensure all the requirements are being adhered to. It is not just a question of how many persons can attend a given function, but the implementation of a totally new, virus-safe approach to our gatherings.

2) The commencement of public liturgies entails the following:

i) - appropriate measures to ensure physical distancing inside and outside the church premise;

ii) - adherence to the number of persons permitted in the church through preregistration;

iii) - screening by means of a questionnaire that participants are virus free;

iv) - following all sanitization precautions including hand sanitizing stations and cleaning of surfaces after use;

v) - informing participants ahead of time if washrooms will be open, and if so ensuring their regular sanitization.

3) To provide assistance to those arriving at the church, Directive # 5 requires a "Greeter or Usher" for this function. This person would be in or near the vestibule. This is not a bouncer, but one who ensures that order is maintained in a thoughtful and Christian manner. To assist in this order, it is recommended that a very visible and clear sign be placed in the vestibule area, such as those found now in various businesses and health facilities, listing the health concerns that prevent participation in public liturgies. See Directive #5, paragraph 31, for complete details.

4) The Prayer of Spiritual Communion, as mentioned in para. No. 58, can be led by the priest or someone from the congregation, with others invited to join in. An explanation is to be given to the faithful on the significance of this prayer, and it can be said either just before or just after the physical distribution of Holy Communion.

5) The primary purpose of church gatherings is for sacramental and liturgical prayer. At the present time this is the focus of our attention. While meetings of parish councils, following the Directive requirements, can be held on church premises, other church organizations are asked to meet electronically (e.g. Zoom, telephone conference, etc.). Such electronic meetings have been effectively held by various church officials and organizations during these past two months.

6) No food and beverage preparation and consumption are permitted on church premises. This activity requires proper sanitization, distancing procedures and scrutiny of all those handling food items. Although food and beverage consumption have been common place on church premises, they involve the added aspect of socializing, which becomes very difficult with two meter distancing.

7) Indications regarding further easement will be given, as parishioners become more comfortable with these COVID-16 restrictions, and in light of medical and civil authorities directives.

May the Good Lord bless you with good health and spiritual grace.

Most Rev. Lawrence Huculak, OSBM

Metropolitan

 


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