Mumbai: For Christmas mass services to be held on December 24 and 25, churches across Mumbai have made it mandatory for all attendees to wear masks and maintain distancing, as precautionary measures against Covid-19. Hand sanitisers will be provided and body temperature checks will be initiated at every church. Communion for Christians will be offered outside the church.
In a letter to the churches of Mumbai, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, has asked them to follow all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and safety measures against Covid-19 during the Christmas and New Year's eve mass services. The archbishop stated, "To facilitate attendance at Christmas Mass, more than one vigil mass may be celebrated in our churches. Distribution of Holy Communion at a suitable place outside the church seems to be the best option at present."
Wearing of masks, thermal checks and maintaining social distancing will be strictly followed, said Fr Lawrie Ferrao, parish priest of St Anne's Church, Mazgaon. Further, said Fr Ferrao, "Ushers will guide attendees to their seats so that social distancing is maintained during the service."
Christmas mass will be streamed online, as the state government has permitted a maximum of only 50 people to attend services in church. Further, its guidelines have suggested that citizens above 60 years of age and children below 10 years of age avoid going out and attend online mass instead.
Fr Harry Vaz, parish priest of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (IC) Church, Borivli west, said, "We will stream our concelebrated Christmas Vigil Mass on December 24 via YouTube. This will benefit seniors over 65 years and families with children below 10 years, who are unable to attend church masses on Christmas day due to restricted numbers permitted."
No open-air Christmas mass will be conducted. Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, "All Christmas mass and New Year eve services will be concluded before 11pm in all churches, following the night curfew restrictions imposed by the state government."
A maximum of 10 choristers can be included in the choir and social distancing should be followed by using different microphones during singing, according to state government directions.
Maha Govt calls for low-key celebrations:
The Maharashtra Government on Wednesday issued guidelines urging the Christian community to keep the celebration of Christmas and New Year simple and low-key.
A maximum of 50 people can be present in the church for prayers and Covid norms of masking, sanitising and social distancing must be followed. The church should be disinfected and extra care must be taken in areas where Christmas trees and miniature statues depicting scenes from the life of Jesus are kept.
No shops/stalls can be set up outside the church.
Large gatherings or crowds in public places or on streets should be avoided. No religious/cultural events or processions that attract crowds should be organised.
No fireworks should be set off. Rules regarding noise pollution should be strictly adhered to.
Thanksgiving Mass, held in church during midnight on December 31, should be held at 7pm or earlier.
It will be mandatory to strictly follow the rules prescribed by the departments of relief and rehabilitation, health, environment and medical education department, the concerned municipal corporations, police and the local administration.