Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork suspends all activity in diocese

It follows consultation with his ministers yesterday.

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork suspends all activity in diocese

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Clyone and Ross, Paul Colton, has ordered the suspension of all church services in the diocese until March 29.

It follows consultation with his ministers yesterday.

Bishop Colton said he has been following public health advice on mass gatherings since the start of the coronavirus and because the average attendance at most of the church services throughout his Diocese is under 40 people, he said they went ahead yesterday with very strict adherence to hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

"By lunch-time yesterday I had reached out to all clergy in the Diocese to receive their feedback and reports," he said.

Many lay people said to them that they appreciated the opportunity to pray together, albeit in smaller numbers.

"Equally, my colleagues in the Diocese expressed understandable uncertainty and anxiety about what should happen in the days ahead."

He said he was now issuing a clear statement to end that uncertainty.

"Like many of you, there has not been much sleep of late, and plenty of practical thinking and prayerful reflection about trying to do the right thing.

"In this Diocese, I have discovered that clergy and laity alike have a myriad of different views about what the right thing is: often mutually contradictory viewpoints.

"The situation is not helped, I feel, in an All-Ireland Church us as ours by the fact that there is not a common approach to 'mass gatherings' within the two jurisdictions.

"All that said, in the light of the request yesterday afternoon to so many other businesses and places of meeting in our community to close; and in the light of the shared conversations and consultation I have had with colleagues in this Diocese; for the avoidance of uncertainty which adds to anxiety; having re-evaluated the local risk assessment also called for, and to err on the side of greater caution, I have decided to ask that all services in this Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, be cancelled from today until the given review date of March 29, inclusive."

It will affect 66 Church services each Sunday, and the regular attendance of about 2,200 people.

Many of the church's 78 ministers - lay and ordained - are in the 'at risk' age group.

Bishop Colton said a number have already had to self-isolate on medical advice.

"Where certain pastoral services are essential they should be confined to immediate family members only, with all other guidelines relating to risk being adhered to," he said.

My heart and prayers go out to people and families who find themselves in this situation at this time.

"Naturally, the request I am making at this time is subject also to such further guidance as may be issued by the Government and the HSE."

He said he has spoken to Bishop Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork and Ross, and both agreed that it is a time to pool resources and insights not only within churches, but between faiths, and regardless of belief and philosophical outlook.

"In this Diocese I urge everyone to pray more than ever, to find ways to worship at home, and to discover imaginatively what it is to be the Church in these extraordinary times," he said.

"Already parishes have been broadcasting Services and keeping in touch with the vulnerable in particular and with each other generally, using a host of inventive ways. I thank you all.

"Efforts are being made to expedite the planned installation of webcam at St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork and a further announcement will be made."

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