Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Bishops of Switzerland Issue Guidelines for Re-Opening of Church Services - FULL TEXT

Framework protection concept of the Swiss Bishops' Conference for the conduct of public services

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On April 16, 2020, the Federal Council announced its plan to gradually relax the measures to protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19) in three stages (April 27 / May 11 / June 8).
From April 27, 2020, according to Art. 6 Para. 3 Letter 1 COVID-19 Regulation 2, Amendment of April 16, 2020, access to facilities for funerals in the family circle and their implementation are again permitted, provided that these facilities and Events have a protection concept in accordance with Art. 6a of this regulation:
  1. By developing and implementing a protection concept, the operators of these facilities and the organizers of these events must ensure that the transmission risk for event participants and those working in the facility or at the event is minimized (Art. 6a para. 1).
  2. The protection concept must comply with the health and labor law requirements of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) (Art. 6a para. 2).
In accordance with the Federal Council's plan for gradual relaxation, public services are only possible at a later date, to be determined by the Federal Council.
The Swiss Bishops' Conference (SBK) as an association of the bishops and territorial abbots of the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland hereby issues - taking into account the requirements of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) and reducing the likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus (COVID 19) to a minimum of their dioceses and territorial abbeys the following framework protection concept with typed targets, which give the individual dioceses and territorial abbeys an orientation for their individual protection concepts and which they have to adapt to their specific circumstances in cooperation with the responsible cantonal authorities.
She understands the hope of many believers and also supports them to be able to celebrate public services again soon. However, the protective measures are necessary and sensible in order to gradually normalize church and spiritual life in our country in a responsible manner. The restrictions correspond to a well understood self-love and neighborly love. It will certainly take a while until a full ecclesiastical and religious life. Public services are only part of what it means to be a Christian. It also includes the many family and neighborly forms of religious life, prayer and worship at home.

(A) Protection concept for church funerals in the family circle (valid from April 27, 2020)
The death of a person is not only a cause for grief for the relatives, it is also always a social event. He touches the whole community according to the word of the apostle Paul: "If one member suffers, all members suffer" (1 Cor 12:26). Caring for the dead and the bereaved is an important part of every community.
a) It is allowed to say goodbye to the family. The bereaved family decides who belongs to the family circle.
b) The requirements of the Federal Council and the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) regarding hygiene and distance must be strictly observed.
c) The funeral services (earth and cremation) are kept as simple as possible and celebrated with as few people as possible. With regard to the total number of participants, only the choice of location - in the case of larger families - is a limiting factor, especially since the requirements regarding distance and hygiene must be observed. This is mandatory between the bereaved family and the people accompanying them (pastor, sacristy, undertaker, ...). The persons responsible for the premises inform the grief family in advance of the maximum number of participants.
d) In the case of a person who died from the coronavirus (COVID-19), the requirements of the state authorities must be followed.
e) If possible, the funeral services are held outdoors (at the grave) with a station as a liturgy. However, if the distance and hygiene rules cannot be observed or if there are other reasons for a celebration in the church, the funeral can also take place in the church in compliance with the protection concept for public services. It is also possible to offer family members a Holy Mass in memory of the deceased for later.

This protection concept will apply from April 27, 2020.

(B) Protection concept for public services (valid from the time approved by the Federal Council)
Services provide spiritual support and guidance for believers in the difficult living conditions of the current crisis. In view of the first easing measures in other areas of public life, the Swiss Bishops' Conference is also in favor of easing the ban on public services, especially in view of the constitutional guarantee of individual and collective religious freedom. Of course, the Catholic Church is committed to the applicable government regulations, especially the regulations regarding hygiene and physical distance.

1. Before the service
a) The contact points are to be cleaned and disinfected, as well as any existing sanitary facilities.
b) The holy water pools remain empty until further notice.
c) Posters with the distance and hygiene rules of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) must be placed at clearly visible places inside and outside the church.
d) The entrance doors must be clearly marked and other doors blocked with a clearly visible marking. Nonetheless, for fire protection reasons, all doors must be able to be opened from the inside and outside at any time.
e) Access to the gallery is blocked off; it can only be entered by the organist and - if the spatial possibilities allow it - by one or a few instrumentalists.
f) The faithful are guided with signposts to the clearly marked, open entrance doors (avoid using the door handles). The state-prescribed distance and hygiene rules must be observed. This is checked by persons commissioned by the parish.
g) At the entrance to the church, the faithful clean their hands with a virucidal disinfectant. - People commissioned by the parish provide donors with a sufficient amount of disinfectant and ensure complete hand disinfection.
h) Access to the church is limited to a maximum of one third of its ordinary visitor capacity. In any case, the individual believers must be allocated a space of at least 4 m 2 . Appropriate measures are taken to ensure that the necessary distances are maintained (for example: blocking every other row of seats; removing chairs; colored marking of the seats, ...).
i) In order to avoid having to reject believers in front of the church during well-attended services, registration procedures with place reservations are recommended. If believers are not admitted, they are advised to switch to another service (worship in a different place or at a different time, possibly during the week).

 2. During the service
a) The faithful take a seat at the marked places. Their seats are offset from the seats in the front or rear free row. - Persons commissioned by the parish monitor compliance with these regulations. - families are not separated.
b) There is the same scope for the use of choirs, groups of singers and instrumentalists as for those in the secular cultural sphere. Cantor chants (alternating between a solo part and short parish verses) and quartets are recommended. The community chant is reduced.
c) The head of the service carries out his office with valets, provided there is enough space at the altar.
d) If there is enough free space, lecturers can be used. They have to be instructed accordingly.
e) Do not pass the collection baskets through the rows of seats; instead, the faithful can throw their collections into a container at the exit when they leave the church.
f) The Eucharistic figures (bread and wine) must also be covered during the high prayer (Palla). The head of the Eucharist disinfects his hands at the beginning of the gift preparation. Only the head of the Eucharist communicates at the chalice. Concelebrants communicate "by intinctionem".
g) Before handing out the communion, the communion donors disinfect their hands. The dialogue "The Body of Christ" - "Amen" is spoken together before going to communion. The communion is distributed in compliance with the hygienic regulations. Clearly visible adhesive tapes are to be attached to the floor, which mark the prescribed minimum distance of 2 meters.
h) The exchange of the greeting of peace is dropped.
i) The distance rules must also be observed for word-God celebrations, other word services, daytime liturgies or group celebrations. Symbolic actions with any objects that cause physical contact are prohibited (especially holy water).
j) During the entire service, persons commissioned by the parish stand at the entrance and exit doors so that they can be opened without delay if necessary.
k) Baptisms, first communion celebrations, confirmations and weddings are only possible if the rules regarding hygiene and social distance are strictly observed. Postponable celebrations are postponed if possible after consultation with the families.

3. After the service
a) People commissioned by the parish open the exit doors.
b) The faithful leave the church in accordance with the order laid down by the parish and in accordance with the rules of distance, and they refrain from gathering in front of the church. - A person authorized by the parish controls this.
c) All contact points must be cleaned and disinfected, as well as any existing sanitary facilities.
d) The church remains open for individual visits during the day.

4. Stay away from worship
a) Prayer should be cultivated or rediscovered primarily at home in families, but also by single people.
b) Believers who are sick or feel sick are asked to stay away from the service. You can, however, receive communion at home while observing the protective measures by specially trained and commissioned persons.
c) Believers who feel unwell during the service must leave it immediately.
d) Believers who belong to the particularly vulnerable according to Art. 10b Para. 2 and Appendix 6 COVID-19-Ordinance 2, Amendment of 16.4.2020, are advised to stay away from the service. If there is an urgent need, they are advised to attend church services with only a few participants - in other words, weekday church services - while strictly observing the state's protective measures.
The attendance at the church service and the protection against infection should be guaranteed equally. That is why the Swiss Bishops' Conference calls on all believers to do their part to curb this pandemic.

This protection concept applies from the point in time approved by the Federal Council and applies until further notice.
Where this concept of protection cannot be fully adhered to, public services are prohibited.

Freiburg, April 27, 2020

Bishop DDr. Felix Gmür

Dr. Erwin Tanner-Tiziani
Secretary General

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