All the following information is available elsewhere via the diocesan websites, but summarised here as a digest of the latest information applicable to our diocese as we begin the New Year in lockdown number three …
COVID-SAFETY AND OUR CHURCHES
Decisions regarding the opening of churches and other places of worship for all the major faith groups are made not by the Churches or Faith Groups themselves but by the Government Places of Worship Task Force, based upon ongoing research and monitoring of the situation. The Group met on 11 January 2021 and published its latest findings on the safety and opening of churches which it is hoped will alleviate some concerns during this third lockdown of the pandemic in England.
The first thing to note was that research by health professionals to date indicates that the new coronavirus variant is as well controlled by physical distancing and mitigations as the old. Therefore, unless further public health studies indicate otherwise, the Government continues to stress that there should be no blanket closure of places of worship, but has asked each to re-evaluate their own local situation and examine all factors that could affect the good COVID security which has been
demonstrated by places of worship so far. This is to include (but is not limited to):
- Sufficient stewarding and management of the venue to ensure sufficient cleaning after acts of communal worship.
- Maintaining good social distancing in the space available along with good ventilation and the compulsory wearing of face coverings
- Factors affecting travel to and from the place of worship, such as public transport.
- The length of exposure time for an act of worship is critical and should be minimised; those who have gathered for worship should not mingle before or after the service outside of the church but should disperse immediately.
- All non-essential worship should be postponed or cancelled. (Bishop Marcus has issued some revised FAQ’s regarding worship around life events, which may be viewed here.)
The Task Force’s officials noted that keeping COVID-secure churches open for public worship adds no extra burden to the NHS and provides recognised benefits for the community. However, upon inspection, should a Local Authority see evidence of lack of COVID security, they may – for this reason only – enforce closure.
Of course, simply because a church building may be permitted to open does not mean it is required to be open. As the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass has been suspended since March 2020 – and remains so – there is absolutely no requirement for parishioners who are – or feel – vulnerable to leave their homes to attend church. Likewise, some of our priests may also voluntarily choose to close their church for reasons of their own or parishioners’ health and safety, such as if the minimum of TWO stewards needed to open safely cannot be met.
LIVESTREAMING OF MASS ONLINE
For those who do not feel able to attend Mass in person at present, many parishes in the Diocese of Leeds continue to livestream Mass online (information is available via the individual parish websites), and Leeds Cathedral livestreams Mass each Sunday at 11am via YouTube Channel www.leedscathedrallive.org.uk/
** COMING SOON! Starting next week (from Monday 18 January) a schedule of weekday livestreamed ‘Mass of the Day’ will be celebrated from one of our parishes and livestreamed to the whole Diocese of Leeds and beyond and easily accessed from the home page of this Diocesan Website. **
RESOURCES PRACTICAL, PRAYERFUL AND PASTORAL
In addition, many parish priests, plus Caritas Leeds, Growing Old GRACEfully and the Diocesan Vicariate for Education have been creating and posting online useful resources, prayers and devotions, with practical help and telephone befriending from the SVP and Catholic Care.
SHEPHERDS – AND CROOKS!
All of us – clergy and laity alike – are reminded to be on guard and aware of increasing email and telephone fraudsters. Any unsolicited telephone call or email asking for money or access to your bank or computer details – even if the criminal is claiming convincingly to be a priest, member of the diocesan curia, or even the Bishop – is always and invariably a fake! That having been said, there are now many SECURE ways of continuing to give to your Parish Offertory to help in whatever small way you can to make up this year’s £4.5 MILLION shortfall across all our parishes. This may be done securely online or by telephone.
… and finally … THE GOOD NEWS!
In amongst all last year’s ‘bad news’ some parishes and schools did manage to send their ‘Good News’ to firstname.lastname@example.org to appear on these News Pages to be read by the website’s 10,000 to 17,000 visitors each month – and also to be compiled into the ‘online only’ Diocese of Leeds Annual Review 2020.