The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has urged young people to volunteer to help with preparations for the resumption of services.
Archbishop Eamon Martin welcomed the announcement by the Government on Friday that church services may resume on June 29.
He said he is “greatly looking forward to celebrating public Mass and the sacraments soon with our congregations”, and added his “fervent hope and prayer” that parishes in Northern Ireland will also soon be able to resume public worship.
Churches in Northern Ireland have been allowed to open for private prayer with social distancing being observed.
Speaking during a private celebration of Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh on Sunday, he urged young people to volunteer to help with the transition back to full parish life.
“Over the next few weeks, our parishes will prepare for the reopening of churches to public worship,” he said.
“We realise that this will happen slowly and tentatively at first. Some people may prefer, for a while, to continue to join us virtually from home over webcam, because of their vulnerability or because of nervousness about going out immediately into gatherings.
“Some of our priests are cocooning and will be unable, at first, to provide their usual services and ministry.
“Because of recommendations on physical distancing and hygiene, it will be necessary to reduce considerably the number of people who can gather inside church buildings at any one time.
“A small number of our liturgical customs may have to be adjusted to take account of health recommendations.
“I appeal to our congregations to be patient and understanding, and to co-operate in helping us fulfil our church guidelines.
“I also call on the younger members of our parishes to step forward in helping us manage the transition back to full parish life and celebration of the sacraments.
“We will need volunteers to assist with cleaning, stewarding, reading, ministering the Eucharist and other roles and responsibilities which some of our older members may be unable to fulfil at this time.”