St Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha, Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: St Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha, Dubai, has decided to postpone the re-opening of the church to a later date “when the situation will improve and the parishioners will be able to come and participate in the Holy Mass and other sacraments in a more peaceful and conducive atmosphere”.

The announcement was made on Sunday on the church website.

“The Parish Council of our church had its monthly meeting on Friday (July 10), presided over by our parish priest Fr Lennie Connully and discussed the various conditions laid down by the Community Development Authority (CDA) regarding the re-opening of our church for worship.

“Considering all these facts and especially to have a short mass without Holy Communion, the re-opening of the church will have to be delayed until we get a more feasible situation,” the church announced.

Fr Connully instead urged worshippers to continue attending the live-streaming of the Mass.

Earlier, authorities announced that mosques, temples, churches and gurudwaras can re-open from July 1 at 30 per cent capacity, after more than 100 days of closure as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Strict precautionary measures were also required, including ensuring adequate physical distancing between worshippers and shortening of worship services.

St Mary’s Church said: “The council unanimously agreed that it is better to postpone the date of re-opening of the Church to a later date when the situation will improve and the parishioners will be able to come and participate in the Holy Mass and other sacraments in a more peaceful and conducive atmosphere.”

The church is said to be the biggest parish in the world with over 350,000 multinational churchgoers and masses offered in over 12 languages.

Conditions considered

St. Mary’s cited the following concerns for delaying the re-opening of the church:

  • The exclusion of the distribution of the holy communion from holy Mass (As per the instruction from the government authorities we are not permitted to distribute Holy Communion)
  • Confessions will not be possible due to the limited time of half an hour for worship and the rule of social distancing.
  • There can be only two services per day and the limited time allotted to celebrate the Holy Mass is a maximum of 30 minutes only.
  • Only 30 per cent of the capacity of the church can be occupied. So to control the crowd pre-registration will be required to attend the Mass. Checking the registration of all who come will entail time and remaining in long queue in the heat of the summer.
  • People with chronic diseases and with temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius will not be permitted in the church.
  • Worshippers to leave the premises immediately after the 30 minutes service. No private prayers are allowed after the service.
  • It is mandatory for all worshippers to download Al Hosn application in order to attend the Mass. This is an app developed by UAE government to detect if you have or if you already had and recovered from COVID-19 or if you had close proximity with a Covid patient. In all these cases you cannot attend the worship.
  • Those below 12 years and above 60 years cannot attend the service.
  • The church has to be sanitised before and after each service. To get all these things together we need two hours of preparation for each half an hour service and willing volunteers as well.

Other churches remain closed

Fr Reinhold Sahner, parish priest of St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church also confirmed to Gulf News that the church in Jebel Ali remains closed.

Earlier, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (AVOSA), the governing body of the Catholic church in the UAE, Oman and Yeman, said: “Following the finalisation of policies and obtaining the necessary approvals, every parish will release instructions on opening hours, the nature of the prayer services to be conducted and details of all the services that will be available on the parish premises.”

“Please note that our churches will open only after the operating policies and procedures for places of worship in the respective emirates are finalised and the necessary safety mechanisms are approved by the authorities concerned,” it added.