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It’s church again but not as we know it 

Worshippers returning to churches across Spain when they re-open today or on May 11th will have to sit pews apart, will be advised to wear masks and have NO hymn books or choir.

Only the vicar, organist and one solo singer
will be allowed to take  part in the services and churches will need to
reduce their capacity by a third. In later stages, the capacity will increase
to 50 per cent.

The church doors will also remain OPEN
indefinitely so that members of the congregation do not have to touch the
handles or knobs and risk getting coronavirus.

Confessions will go ahead but both the priest
and the church-goer will have to be as far apart as possible and will have to
wear face masks and gloves. There will be no water in the fonts and as people
arrive and leave, they will have to wash their hands with gel.

Member of the same household will be able to
sit together but not strangers and they will have to occupy alternate rows of
pews and the collection basket will not be passed round. Instead, 
designated helpers, also wearing masks and gloves, will hold plates at the
door. Everything in the church, from the pews to the religious artefacts, will
have to be disinfected on a daily basis.

Baptisms, confirmations and marriages will
have to wait until the end of June if possible but if baptisms do go ahead, the
baby will not be anointed with water but with a disposable cotton swab.

In the event of weddings, only the best man,
bride and groom can touch the rings and during funerals, mourners will be asked
not to comfort one another with hugs.

The church is also asking people considered to
be at high risk “to stay in their homes and through television and radio
to follow the Holy Mass and other acts of Christian piety.”

Parish priests and church committees will be
responsible for enforcing the rules. Under no circumstances will tourists be
allowed in.

The new rules have been published by the
church authority in Spain and come into force across the country on May 11th.
However, the four islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Graciosa in the Canary
Islands and Formentera in the Balearics can start today, May 4th as they are in
advance of the rest of Spain because of their low incidence of coronavirus.

The Executive Commission of the Spanish
Episcopal Conference said: “We want to gradually recover the normality of
ecclesial life. We are happy and we thank God that the disease is being controlled
and that, even with reservations and precautions, the recovery of the normal
activities of our common life can begin.”