All churches in Mumbai will resume Sunday masses and other celebrations from November 29 with strict adherence to all the government regulations and necessary COVID-19 protocols, according to a circular issued by the Archbishop of Bombay on Friday. cf
Although the Maharashtra government allowed religious places to reopen from November 16, churches in Mumbai remained shut for the public and only private prayers were allowed inside the church premises till now.
"The government suddenly announced the reopening of religious places at a time when we were not prepared with the necessary infrastructure in regard to COVID-19 precautions. So we took our time for all the necessary arrangements like foot pedal sanitizer dispenser, demarcation for social distancing, and availability of spare masks for the visitors,
Father Barrett said the church will continue with online masses despite the reopening of churches for people who cannot step out as of now.
"We will continue online masses despite reopening of the churches so that people have an option to continue their prayers if they are not able to physically attend church masses," Father Barrett said.
He also mentioned that all COVID-19 related precautions will be strictly followed and an advisory for the same was issued on behalf of the church for people's assistance.
"The church is fully invested in the people's safety. There will be gaps between prayers and only one-third capacity of visitors will be allowed at a time," he added.
In his communication, the Cardinal also left it up to respective parish priests and deans to decide on the number of people to be allowed inside the church during each service. He said that although he had suggested 1/3rd of the total capacity, parish priests could further reduce this number. Furthermore, churches have to be sanitized completely before each service. Touching of statues is not permitted, water stoups are to be kept empty, and bringing flowers to church has also been discouraged.
The Cardinal is also letting parish priests decide on celebrating additional Masses on Sundays and weekdays so that all parishioners "have an equal opportunity to participate in the Eucharist at least once a week." "The government has advised that those above 65 years and those below 10 years of age not to come for religious gatherings. We advocate the same." Thursday's circular stated that on Sunday, November 22, which is the Feast of Christ the King, many would have an adoration service before the Blessed Sacrament, with different age groups coming in at different times to control crowds. "Each parish could decide how to organize the Adoration service: silent adoration, Liturgy of the Word, Benediction, etc. You have then the whole of the last week of the Liturgical Year to get your SOPs in place and to prepare and announce arrangements," it stated.
Since the distribution of sacred food is disallowed, only the celebrating priest(s) will receive Holy Communion at Mass. Father Nigel Barrett, the spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, "The meeting was held to review the last two days of churches being opened. The feedback that we got from deans was that the decision to reopen was a bit sudden and not all parishes had time to get their SOPs in place. Our primary objective is the safety of all people."
“Clergymen could have a good time extra lots on Sundays and on weekdays to make sure that all parishioners have an opportunity to take part at the very least as soon as every week,” the Cardinal stated. In consonance with authorities' tips, aged individuals above 65 years of age and youngsters under 10 could not take part in public worship.
The instant check of those measures comes November 22, the Feast of Christ the King, when folks will arrive in the church in teams at completely different instances. The monks then have a full week to plan their SOPs for November 29 and announce them.
The Cardinal and deans will meet for additional assessment in early December and announce a plan for Christmas celebrations.