By Lara Pickford-Gordon
It will be a happy moment on the Feast of Corpus Christi tomorrow June 11 for persons receiving the physical Body of Christ after more than two months.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Port of Spain is not yet open to a congregation but the 9 a.m. Corpus Christi Mass officiated by Archbishop Jason Gordon followed by Benediction will be livestreamed via: TV: Trinity TV, TTT; Facebook live: catholictt.org, Trinity TV and radio: Heritage Radio 101.7FM and Talk City 91.1FM. The Archdiocese has offered the option for the faithful to reverently proceed after Mass to their nearest worshiping community to receive Holy Communion and then return home to end with Benediction streamed from the Cathedral.
Cleaning of the Cathedral will be completed and markings placed on the ground of the carpark today Wednesday June 10, in preparation for the faithful. As COVID-19 restrictions on commercial activity and public gatherings are relaxed, the reopening of places of worship June 11 was announced in a release from the Office of the Prime Minister last Sunday.
The Health Ministry continues its appeal for the public to adhere to the ‘new normal’. The recommendations continue to be: wearing face masks covering the nose and mouth; cleaning then sanitising surfaces; washing hands often; avoidance of touching the face; coughing into a tissue or crook of the elbow, and for people exhibiting flu symptoms or with health vulnerabilities to remain at home. Guidelines for the reopening of churches from the Archdiocese’s Health Safety and Environment Team will be implemented at churches.
In the months since the closure, Cathedral Sacristan Kelon Baptiste has been frequently asked “when it will reopen?”. He said there was concern because of the time away from church: “they want to receive the Body of Christ”.
Catholics seeing Baptiste walking around the Cathedral compound call out to him. “Up to this morning two of them saw me out there and they asking ‘when? When?’ and I told them, they could come Thursday after the Corpus Christi Mass …and they could come and receive the Body of Christ in the carpark. They will not really be allowed to come into the church as yet,” he said.
Baptiste said when he opened one of the entrance doors to allow “breeze” in while preparing the altar, he saw persons standing at the main gate looking towards the reredos saying prayers. “Once the door open, they stand up and pray,” he said, calling them “very loyal” and “real”.
Vicar General and Cathedral Administrator Fr Martin Sirju said sanitisers will be available as persons enter the main gate for communion. They will proceed to one of the eight lines for communion. Markings on the ground will indicate where persons should stand to maintain a six-foot separation between them. He said four 10 x 10 tents will be erected, “in case of rain”. Depending on the queue in the carpark, he hoped persons would “take advantage” of the Brian Lara Promenade to wait their turn. Crowding under the tents will be discouraged.
Fr Sirju anticipates smaller crowds than to what they are accustomed, since people are encouraged to go to their respective parishes for communion. “Normally the whole northern vicariate joins in the Corpus Christi Mass and procession,” he said. Since 2014, the Mass was held at the Grand Stand Queen’s Park Savannah after the Cathedral was closed for restoration. Parishioners from across the country participated in Mass and the procession through Port of Spain and Benediction.
Based on the number of persons regularly attending Mass at the Cathedral and Sacred Heart RC, which is part of the parish cluster, he did not expect a large crowd to assemble tomorrow for communion. Parking will be available at the Housing Development Corporation carpark, George Street. Fr Sirju said the Cathedral will reopen to the public for the 6 p.m. Mass Saturday.