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Pastoral Statement from Bishop of Derry

The Coronavirus has created a lot of worry for many people. Matters are further complicated in this diocese by different approaches taken by the Irish and UK governments.

As a Church in this cross-border diocese, we have two key pastoral priorities at this time.  Firstly, we wish to take all measures within our control to minimise the spread of the virus. Secondly, and equally importantly, we want to offer widespread pastoral support and encouragement, rather than merely adding to fear.

  1. Precautionary Measures

  1. Parishioners, clergy and pastoral staff should avoid being with others in public places if they show symptoms of illness, as identified by public health authorities.

  2. The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed until further notice. The normal routine of weekend Masses is suspended.

  3. Parish Confirmation ceremonies are being suspended until further notice.

  4. Further guidance will be given at a later date regarding arrangements for First Communion.

  5. Funeral ceremonies will be made available for all the deceased, in accordance with public health requirements. However, these should take place for immediate family members and not more than 100 people.

  6. Marriage ceremonies will continue to be celebrated. However, those in attendance should be fewer than 100.

  7. Baptisms will continue to be celebrated, again with no more than 100 present in the Church. The celebrant will take all appropriate measures to mitigate the possibility of virus transmission, in accordance with public health advice.

  1. Pastoral Response

  1. Because of the widespread fear and uncertainty, this is a time when intense spiritual and pastoral care is essential.

  2. Priests should continue to celebrate weekend Masses privately, remembering, in particular, all of those who are most affected by the virus as well as the dedicated services of health care workers and carers.

  3. Churches should remain open and promote a prayerful environment through

    1. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

    2. Ample opportunities for parishioners to pray, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation or seek spiritual counsel.

    3. Access to ample supply of Holy Water for those who wish to take it for personal use.  However, Holy Water should not be present in the holy water fonts

  4. Those who are unable to attend weekend Masses in their parish are encouraged to mark Sunday as well as they can by participating in Masses which are transmitted by radio, television or webcams. A list of churches in this diocese with webcams will be available on

  5. Parishes are encouraged to maximise the use of devices such as webcams to develop and publicise a range of prayer moments during each day. These may include (a) The Rosary  (b) Divine Mercy Chaplet (c) The Prayer of the Church (cf e.g. ) (d) Prayerful reflection on the weekday or Sunday readings  (e) Stations of the Cross

6. People should seek and create circumstances where people can pray together in family units and with friends. This may involve some of those under 5 above as well as other devotions of choice.

This advice will be reviewed daily in the light of public health advice from the relevant statutory authorities.

                                                                        + Donal McKeown  

Bishop of Derry

Parishes of Ballinascreen and Desertmartin


In the light of Bishop Donal’s Pastoral Statement, the following arrangements for Mass are in place in the parishes of Ballinascreen and Desertmartin effective from Wednesday 18 March, 2020.

  • DAILY MASS will be celebrated only in Holy Rosary Church behind closed doors as follows:

  • All Masses in the Holy Rosary Church will be transmitted live on the parish webcam which has a link to it on the front page of the parish website i.e.

  • Mass times for Holy Rosary will be:       Monday - Friday ~ 10.00 am,   Friday ~ 7.30 pm

                                                                         VIGIL MASS ~ Saturday ~ 6.00 pm

                                                                         SUNDAY MASS ~ Sunday ~ 11.00 am.

  • Only parish staff, sacristans etc will be present at these Masses.   

  • These Masses will be available on the Parish Webcam and parishioners are invited to make this Mass available to as many as possible, especially the sick and elderly of their families. Other churches across the diocese and indeed the country are available at different times. Please check

  • Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic baptisms will remain for now at the usual times and places but only parents and God parents may attend.  A baptism card is to be completed when booking a baptism. Please contact the Parish Office to book a baptism.

  • In accordance with the most recent guidelines re Coronavirus issued by Bishop Donal McKeown ALL FUNERAL MASSES will be limited to FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS ONLY. If parishioners so wish, funerals may be celebrated in Holy Rosary Church so that the Funeral Mass may be viewed live via Holy Rosary Webcam. It is very important over the next few weeks and months that we respect the scientific and medical advice not to shake hands.

  • Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament ~ Holy Rosary Church on Mondays from 11.00 am - 5.00 pm   St Mary’s Church Coolcalm on Thursdays from 11.00 am - 3.00 pm.

  • Eucharistic Ministers will not be bringing Holy Communion to the sick and housebound during this period.

  • In these difficult and uncertain times, people find strength, consolation and hope in prayer, so Churches will open after Mass for private visits and personal prayer.

  • The No Greater Love Programme on Sunday evenings during Lent is now cancelled.

  • Priests have been advised not to visit hospitals, as hospitals will be where the most seriously ill patients are treated over the coming weeks.  Hospital chaplains will continue to visit seriously ill patients.  The chaplains will be following enhanced infection control protocols, which will facilitate their ministry. The priests of the diocese are diligent in their care for the sick.  However, in this specific instance, care for the sick is best facilitated by leaving visitation in hospital to the chaplains.  This will avoid priests inadvertently taking the virus from one ward to another, or bringing it out from hospital to vulnerable people in the community, or, for that matter, exposing themselves to the virus, with the risk that poses to their own health and the availability of pastoral ministry in their parish.

  • Parish Office will be open as usual.

  • The Parish Bulletin will be printed each week and will be available in all Churches from Saturday mornings, so parishioners will have access to the Sunday Mass readings etc.

This is an occasion for all of us – especially in families – to pray more intensely for each other and especially for those who have succumbed to the illness.  We should pray also for those at the frontlines – especially doctors, nurses and medical staff and other carers, including clergy – that the Lord will protect them as they place their own wellbeing at risk in the service of all.

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