As Austria begun lifting its coronavirus restrictions on the 1st day of May, the majority of the population welcomed this with a great deal of excitement — but this is the first step in a long process, experts say.
On the religous side, church services can be celebrated again from 15 May. The Bishops’ Conference has issued detailed rules for Catholic masses. “For mutual protection, praying and singing together is to be reduced to a minimum”, hand communion is permitted (Sundays), but the use of holy water is not allowed. Baptisms and weddings can be held with a maximum of ten participants, funerals with a maximum of 30.
Further postponed are outdoor masses, First Communion and Confirmation. Until the end of August, large church celebrations cannot be celebrated in the usual way, the bishops emphasized according to Kathpress published on Sunday, 3 May 2020.
Interruption in case of accidental contact
In general, it also applies in the church that around ten square metres must be available per person, as well as a minimum distance of two metres, the wearing of masks, regular disinfection of door handles etc. Security services are responsible for ensuring compliance. If – for example during communion – direct hand contact occurs accidentally, the liturgical service must be interrupted and those involved must wash or disinfect their hands.
“The body of Christ” and the “Amen” are omitted
The bishops have regulated exactly how communion is given: Only hand communion is allowed, but direct hand contact is to be avoided. The hosts have to be covered until then, the priest or communion helper has to put on a mask shortly before and clean his hands “thoroughly”. The “greatest possible distance” is to be maintained, “the words ‘The Body of Christ’ – ‘Amen’ are omitted”. Only the two-metre rule and the mask requirement are suspended for a short time.
Ministrants may be present during the celebration (at a distance of two metres). Mass is to be celebrated only “in the large church”. In this first stage the faithful are further excused from the Sunday duty.
Baptisms and marriages are possible – although postponement is recommended – but only in the immediate family circle. At the wedding ceremony, instead of attaching the rings, “confirmation of the marriage by wrapping the hands with a stole in silence” is suggested. Confessions are also only made outside the confessional, “preferably in a sufficiently large and well-ventilated room”, at a distance of two metres and possibly with a plexiglass window.
“Time of the domestic church”
In their pastoral letter, the bishops further asked the faithful for “patience, a sense of responsibility and consideration, combined with a view to different forms of being Church”. The restrictions were a necessary contribution to overcoming the pandemic and would come from the Christian commandment to love oneself and one’s neighbour. It is “a time of the domestic church”, it is still necessary to pray at home and read the Bible – and the “celebration of the service through the media” is still an important part of the life of faith.
- Hector Pascua, Source: https://www.bischofskonferenz.at/
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