Church leaders recommend wearing face masks during worship

Could this become a more regular sight in places of worship? Credit: PA

The leaders of the main churches across the island of Ireland have united to recommend the wearing of face coverings during worship.

In a joint statement, the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterians and Methodists said while governments on both sides of the border have not made face coverings compulsory at services, they recommend they are worn.

"As churches we are committed to maintaining two metre physical distancing between household groups and strict adherence to all government guidance on hand hygiene, cleaning, ventilation etc," the church leaders said in a statement.

"It, however, remains our responsibility to ensure that our services of worship are safe places for all who join with us."

Some places of worship have already implemented measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Credit: UTV

They continued: "It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc, is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others.

"Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours.

"Following further recent consultations with public health authorities, we join with Christian church leaders all over this island in formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of two metre physical distancing, from Sunday August 30, 2020, and earlier if practicable.

The statement added: "We understand that some people are exempted from the wearing of face coverings, as outlined in the two jurisdictions.

"We also recognise that whilst it may not be appropriate for those who are leading from the front during worship, including preaching, to wear face coverings, they should at all times continue to maintain at least two metre physical distancing from one another, and four metre physical distancing from the front row of the congregation."

The statement was endorsed by the Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell, Presbyterian Moderator David Bruce and President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Tom McKnight.