I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Messages from Bishop Marcus with information on the re-opening of churches for public Liturgical Worship in the Diocese of Leeds
*** More detailed information about when and how our churches may re-open for public worship – and, crucially, how to book, as numbers for each church are limited in order to allow for physical distancing of 2 metres – is available from individual parishes and/or published on parish websites only.***
It should be noted that whilst permission has been given by the Government that churches may open from 4 July, it is important for everyone to understand that there is no imperative to do so on that date. The critical issue is that churches only re-open for both private prayer and the celebration of Mass when all the measures are in place that will make it is safe for them to do so.
Although there is a deep desire to resume the sacramental life of the Church, many parishes will need some time to assimilate the guidance and to put the necessary framework of procedures in place before they can open. It is crucial to ensure that we are fully compliant in terms of social/physical distancing and to satisfy those governmental requirements which are designed to make safety paramount in public gatherings. I would ask everyone therefore to be patient, understanding and supportive as these arrangements are gradually implemented.
Sufficient eligible volunteers to help with the stewarding and cleaning of churches as part of these arrangements is absolutely essential. I would like to thank all those who have already come forward so kindly to assist with this work in their local parishes.
+ Marcus Stock
Bishop of Leeds
26 June 2020
The latest Guidance from the CBCEW regarding resumption of collective worship may be read here
Only those churches assessed as safe to open for private prayer are able to open for public worship. Around 90 churches in our diocese have now been signed-off as safe to reopen. Their opening days and times will be subject to change, perhaps at short-notice, so please always refer to your own parish’s website and/or social media for details, including how each individual parish has decided to operate its booking system.
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 open for private prayer and therefore possibly for Mass?
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!
Representations made by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) to the Prime Minister, and his announcement giving permission that some places of worship may be opened for individual private prayer and now for Mass was, of course, only on the proviso that this can be done safely. In our own Diocese, a Steering Group comprising senior clergy, the Diocesan Health and Safety Officer and the Property Office has been planning and making site-visits to assess around 100 churches in our 79 parishes for safe opening.
The conditions for churches opening at all, agreed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) in collaboration with the Government’s Task Force, include physical-distancing, stewarding and sanitising measures. This does not mean that every church in our Diocese will be able to open immediately, and it may be that several churches will not be able to open for some time. When churches do open, individual parishes will publicise opening times and days, depending on the availability of volunteer stewards and with social-distancing arrangements having been put in place.
Some of the measures those who go to a church can expect to see include:
- Separated entrance and exits, a signposted ‘one way’ system, and a seating layout suitable for two-metre physical-separation.
- 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.
The Guidance given by the CBCEW regarding the criteria for churches opening for private prayer may be read here
In the fast-changing circumstances, every effort will be made to give timely and accurate updates. Some initiatives taken during 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
- Additional guidance is being 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.
- 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
- 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 Funeral Liturgies and Funeral Masses may now also be celebrated in churches but ‘should have no more than 30 people in attendance, and social distancing should be strictly adhered to’.
- 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.
- Additional guidance is being drafted by the Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in collaboration with the Government’s Task Force, about the celebration in our churches of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Matrimony.
- Additional guidance regarding celebrations of First Holy Communions and First Reconciliation will be sent out in due course from the Vicariate for Education.
The Bishop also recommends the following prayer and liturgical resources which are available to download: