Church services have been suspended, with the exception of weddings and funerals, during the third lockdown
Marie Louise McConville
New criteria have been introduced in Northern Ireland regarding the publication of funeral notices.
Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and as efforts continue to encourage more people to stay at home and stay safe, the Department of Health has issued new guidance to funeral directors about notices.
While it is still permitted to place family notices in order to inform people of someone's death, the new restrictions mean that the date and time of a funeral cannot be published unless the notice directs people to a webcam link where they can watch the funeral online.
Currently, many churches have webcams or some form of digital link to allow parishioners to log on to watch Mass or a funeral service.
In Down & Connor Diocese in particular, around 90 per cent of churches already have a web viewing link available. Parishioners can go online to the diocesan website and see a list of churches where the facility is available. Click here for more information
It is thought this move by the Department of Health, amid further efforts to prevent people from mixing with those from outside their household, will encourage more churches to install webcams or set up some form of viewing link.
Sinead Cavanagh, Group Sales Operations Manager at The Irish News, said: "We understand how important funeral notices are in keeping communities connected, something which is even more vital at this time.
"With the current restrictions limiting attendance at funerals the Irish News continues to publish funeral and sympathy notices to allow our readers to pay their respects to the family of the deceased and to encourage mourners to watch Requiem Mass via webcam".
Fr Martin Magill, parish priest of St John's Parish on the Falls Road in west Belfast, said its webcam allows its parishioners to "stay connected".
Fr Magill said the decision was made to install the camera in August following feedback from during the first lock-down, adding that it has been "really helpful".
"Lock-down convinced us we needed to get a webcam," he said.
"For those who would have gone to daily Mass, it is really useful to them so they can access it. They can do it in their own homes.
"Certainly, people have appreciated being able to watch funerals, from another part of the world. There are 25 (people allowed to attend a funeral) in total. For families who have big family circles, they have been able to watch the service".
Fr Magill added: "It's just a useful way of keeping people connected and to observe the present restrictions.
"It's important the Church is playing its part in facilitating that," he said.
Fr Martin Magill, parish priest of St John's Parish on the Falls Road, said church webcams help parishioners "stay connected"