In order to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control, the government has announced that face coverings must be worn in places of worship from Saturday 8 August. This is enforceable by law for all except those who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
Public Health officials have been given extra powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings in public spaces with fixed penalty charges. However, their approach is to educate rather than penalise. It is for the benefit of the common good that a face covering should now be worn by those who are able to do so.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) has now updated Bishop Marcus, who in turn has issued guidance to the clergy, including the following additions to the previous guidelines which are directly relevant to laity attending Mass:
- Face coverings will be mandatory in Places of Worship from Saturday 8 August 2020. Parishioners attending churches should bring face coverings with them, and wear them in church unless they are exempt from doing so. This is for the good of all who gather in the church for Mass as it is an enclosed public space where there are people from differing households who they do not normally meet.
- Worshippers should limit their interactions with anyone they are not attending church with, i.e. if they are attending corporate worship with one other household, wherever possible they should maintain social distancing with anyone outside of this group.
- Readers should sanitise their hands before and after reading or be supplied with single-use gloves and should avoid touching the microphones or the Lectionary during the Liturgy of the Word, apart from page turning. Readers may remove their face coverings at the lectern to read and should replace them before stepping away
from it, providing the lectern is sufficiently distant from the congregation
- Priests in the sanctuary providing they are sufficiently distant (2 metres or more) from the congregation do not need to wear a face covering except when distributing Holy Communion. Other ministers in the sanctuary should wear face coverings and remain socially distant from the celebrant.
- Unless otherwise instructed by the priest or stewards, a communicant should unloop their face covering and with arms at ‘full stretch’ extend their hands as flatly as possible, palms upwards, one of top of the other, to receive Holy Communion. They should then immediately consume the Sacred Host and replace their face covering before moving back to their seat.