Covid 19 Omicron Variant – Latest Advice
Honouring Sunday: a letter to the lay faithful from Bishop Marcus and his fellow Bishops of England and Wales
The Covid-19 Route Map: Step 4 Guidance has been issued by the Bishops’ Conference General Secretariat, along with a statement from the Bishops, Sunday – It Is Our Day, to coincide with the lifting and easing of Coronavirus restrictions in England on Monday, 19 July 2021. This replaces all the previous guidance.
The emphasis is still on keeping everyone safe, so is very much on local and individual responsibility of you as parishioners, and for parish clergy to be aware of local conditions as we seek to return to a more familiar use of our buildings and gather together for the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, so that all may hear our ‘Welcome back!’ with confidence!
The time is fast approaching when own parish priests, congregations and communities will be able to say a warm ‘Welcome Back to Church!’ to ALL!
In anticipation of that time, at their recent Plenary Meeting, Bishop Marcus and his fellow Catholic Bishops in England and Wales have issued a joint letter paying tribute … ‘…to all in the Catholic community who have shown such courage, generosity and understanding in the face of adversity this past year’.
The Bishops’ reflection is called The Day of the Lord and may be viewed and downloaded here.
‘It is the Eucharist, the celebration of the Mass, that makes the Church … The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the lifeblood of the Church. It requires our active participation and, to be fully celebrated, our physical presence. At this moment, then, we need to have in our sights the need to restore to its rightful centrality in our lives the Sunday Mass, encouraging each to take his or her place once again in the assembly of our brothers and sisters … In the time to come we can do no better than to rekindle in our hearts, foster and encourage, a yearning for the Real Presence of the Lord and the practice of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, a gift so deeply appreciated in these times of lockdown. We need to begin by fostering this in ourselves. For the Eucharist should be the cause of our deepest joy, our highest manner of offering thanks to God and for seeking his mercy and love. We need to make it the foundation stone of our lives’.
(Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, The Day of the Lord, 22 April 2021)
We all look forward to welcoming one another back to church: not only the laity faithfully returning to reception of the Sacraments, but also those whose journey is just beginning and whose appreciation of the Catholic faith has increased during the past year, either through receiving the Lord’s comfort through prayer, through charitable acts of mercy and kindness, or through the beauty and dignity of our livestreamed liturgies.
Decisions regarding the opening of churches and other places of worship for all the major faith groups are made by the Government Places of Worship Task Force; the Task Force Group met on 11.01.2021 and on 12.01.2021 issued further guidance which may be viewed here.
** Please note that the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass is currently suspended – and has been so since the first lockdown back in March 2020.**
Some of the measures that those who choose to go to a church can expect to see include:
- Separated entrance and exits, a signposted ‘one way’ system, and a reduced capacity owing to the necessity of a seating layout suitable for a one-metre physical separation.
- As of 8 August 2020, face coverings became mandatory for all churchgoers (except those who are exempt from wearing a face covering)
- At least two volunteer stewards on duty throughout the period of time a church is open, who are able to monitor the number of people in the church and undertake appropriate cleaning arrangements. The Guidance is that stewards ‘should not be drawn from those instructed to shield themselves, nor from groups considered more vulnerable to coronavirus’.
- No-one under 18 may volunteer or be admitted to the building unless accompanied by an adult member of their own household.
- Toilets will be open, but only if there is provision for them to be cleaned after each use.
Could YOU volunteer as a steward?
Churches may ONLY open when at least TWO volunteer stewards are present. If you are not in one of the vulnerable groups – and you don’t mind a bit of form-filling – why not volunteer to help your church to stay open for private prayer? If your Parish Priest has asked for volunteers via the Parish Website or social media, feel free to contact him direct – otherwise, email email@example.com in the first instance, confirming that you’re not in any of the vulnerable groups, and if your parish is one of those which is not yet able to open a church because of needing volunteers, your details and generous offer to help will be forwarded as appropriate…Thank you in advance!
What else stays the same?
In the first instance, always contact your Parish Priest for more information. In the fast-changing circumstances, every effort will be made to give timely and accurate updates. Some initiatives taken during the first lock-down still remain:
- Leeds Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Diocese of Leeds, live-streams daily Mass, usually at 12.30pm (12noon on SATURDAYS) and preceded by the Angelus and Rosary which will be prayed at 11.50am (11.20am on SATURDAYS). The Cathedral’s live-stream can be viewed at: www.leedscathedrallive.org.uk Holy Mass is live-streamed on Sundays at 11:00am.
- Weekday and Sunday Masses are still being celebrated online by priests in several of our parishes. The following list will be updated upon receipt of information about where to find Holy Mass Online in the Diocese of Leeds
- Practical help such as a pick up and drop off of groceries and pharmacy service, dog walking, plus other telephone and support services (especially for those experiencing financial hardship) is available via the diocesan charity Catholic Care which has initiated its Catholic Care Community Response Service
- Continuing to give to the Offertory helps secure the future of your parish, its churches and its priests. Setting up a Standing Order is the best way and this can be done by telephone or online. There’s also Offertory Giving by Telephone and a secure Online Parish Offertory on your parish website.
Keeping in touch with your Parish Priest
- Bishop Marcus regularly updates all clergy with the latest Guidance for our own Diocese.
- Additional guidance has been drafted by the Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in collaboration with the Government’s Task Force, regarding the Sacrament of the Sick and Pastoral Visits to the Homes of Parishioners.
- Priests will only be able to visit the sick in hospitals when arrangements for this are permitted by the relevant hospital or health authority.
- Funeral arrangements should be made by clergy in collaboration with the Funeral Directors appointed by the family of the deceased. Please note that the latest Government guidance states that ‘Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble’. The latest CBCEW Guidance on Funerals (published 02/10/2020) may be viewed here.
- Funeral services should not be conducted by priests or deacons over 70 years of age or whose underlying health conditions make them vulnerable to a more severe form of illness.