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BISHOP Fintan Monahan has warned priests to “use a cotton bud or surgical glove for the anointing with Holy Oil” when giving the last rites and to maintain a distance of one metre.

The Bishops of the Cashel Province (which includes Clare) issued a statement advising elderly and vulnerable priests to protect their health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We recognise the challenges priests face in their desire to reach out pastorally while always mindful of the public health recommendations. We call on priests, especially those who are elderly and vulnerable, to take care also of themselves at this time. Their ministry of prayer, blessing and support is valuable and needed, even if it is necessary to curtail to an absolute minimum direct pastoral contact with others,” the statement reads.

When anointing the sick, priests are encouraged to avoid contact with others in the house of the person who is seriously ill.

“It is clear that some priests will themselves, because of their health condition or age, feel unable to attend to the sick person in their local parish. They may need to call on another priest from elsewhere to celebrate the sacrament,” the statement adds.

Priests are advised to stay away from family homes in the event of a funeral, for fear of spreading infection. “Mass should not be offered in family homes even in the circumstance of a bereavement. Normally, priests are advised against visiting homes at this time because priests themselves may be carriers of the virus without knowing it or the virus may be in the house,” the statement concluded.

Parishoners are also asked to avoid attending funerals at this time and instead send a letter, a text message or an an e-mail.

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