HSE Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice For Religious Services:
1. People who are ill or feel ill should not attend religious services.
2. Physical contact interactions (“Sign Of Peace”) should be suspended.
3. Holy water fonts should not be used.
4. Use of communal vessels (e.g. Chalice) should be suspended.
5. Practice ‘good hygiene’ standards
6. People who have been in contact with COVID-19 infected people or been in a known COVID-19 area should phone the HSELive helpline on 1850 24 1850 for advice
People who are ill should not attend religious services.
If members of the congregation, religious leaders (e.g. priests) or others involved in religious services (e.g. ministers of the Eucharist) feel ill and may have COVID-19 (see below), even if their symptoms are mild, they should stay at home.
If members of the congregation, religious leaders (e.g. priests) or others involved in religious services (e.g. ministers of the Eucharist) feel well and have no symptoms, but in the past 14 days they have:
• travelled to Ireland from an area with presumed ongoing community transmission of COVID-19
• been in contact with a person who has COVID-19
• attended/worked in a healthcare facility where patients with COVID-19 are being treated
they should phone the HSELive helpline on 1850 24 1850 for advice
Reducing the spread of infection-leaders and congregation
You should always practice good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are a series of actions to take which are designed to reduce the spread of disease, including COVID-19, to yourself and others. These actions include regular handwashing and covering your mouth
and nose with a tissue or the bend of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
Settings where religious services take place, including churches, should take the following actions
Advise religious leaders/clergy and congregation not to attend if they are ill.
Have a plan for dealing with religious leaders or members of the congregation who become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 during a service, including isolating them from other people and seeking medical advice without delay (e.g. phone a GP/ Emergency Services).
Supply tissues and alcohol based hand gel at religious services/gatherings.
Provide bins for disposal of tissues at religious gatherings. Ensure hand-washing facilities, including soap and disposable towels, are well maintained.
Ensure all hard surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door handles, hand rails, taps and pews are cleaned regularly with a household detergent.
Have a plan for how the church will continue or suspend its activities in the event of religious leaders/clergy becoming ill with COVID-19.
Religious leader/clergy administrationsto sick laity should be carefully managed
To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in Ireland. If there is a case, it is highly likely that the
patient will be treated in a hospital and their pastoral care can be provided in the hospital according to
established protocols and with full compliance with infection prevention and control guidance and in
close consultation with their treating doctor.
People at increased risk of gettingCOVID-19, including people who have been in close contact with a
person with COVID-19, may be asked to limit their social interactions for 14 days, including staying at
home and not attending work or religious services. In order to reduce the possible spread of infection, these people should not be visited by religious leaders/members of the clergy while they are in self
isolation. Pastoral care can be provided over the telephone/skype if resources permit.
Physical interaction during religious services, e.g. Sign of Peace
Most physical interaction during religious services, e.g. shaking hands while exchanging the ‘Sign of
Peace’ in Christian religious services, involves a low risk of spreading the virus especially if
members of the congregation who are unwell do not attend religious services while they are ill. However, because COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been seen in people before, we need to
exercise extreme caution to limit the spread of the virus. Current information suggests that COVID-19
can spread easily between people and could be spread from an infected person even before they
develop any symptoms. For these reasons we suggest that physical interaction during religious
services, including the Sign of Peace, should be suspended. For Christian religious services, the priest
may choose to give the congregation permission to carry out an alternative Sign of Peace that does not
involve hand contact (such as smile/ nod/ bow) if so wished. The practice of shaking hands on greeting and departure at religious services/ gatherings should be
suspended for both religious leaders/clergy and laity.
Holy water fonts
Because COVID-19 is a new disease and appears to spread easily between people, we advise that
holy water fonts should not be used.
Using communal vessels for food and drink during religious services, e.g. drinking from the Chalice
during Holy Communion in Christian services
To minimise the risk of spread of infection, the use of communal vessels should be suspended. For
example, during Holy Communion in Christian religious services only the celebrant should drink from the
Chalice. No one else should drink from the Chalice – this includes other priests, ministers of the Eucharist
and members of the congregation. Alternatives to direct sharing of the Chalice should also be AVOIDED including:
1. Intinction, i.e.:
the Communion wafer is dipped in the Chalice and administered into the hand
the Communion wafer is administered into the communicant’s hand and they dip it into the
2. Distribution of Communion wine through individual small cups
Arrangements for parochial activities/social religious gatherings
Parochial activities/social religious gatherings on church premises should follow sensible practices,
including hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene as described in this guidance. Posters/notices formally
stating any guidance or changes in practice should be clearly displayed and appropriate leaflets should be