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Reopening of church for public celebration of the Mass (updated 27 June 2020)
Quoting Cardinal Vincent Nichols our necessary “Eucharistic fast” is drawing to a close for many (but not everyone) with the announcement by the Government that churches may open from Saturday July 4th.
At the time of writing we are awaiting guidelines in regard to the practicalities of this as “we remain committed to making sure that our systems of hygiene & infection control (i.e. effective hand sanitisation, social distancing & cleaning) meet Government & public health standards.” Therefore “we tread carefully along the path that lies ahead & it is clear we cannot simply return to how things were before Lockdown.
As the Obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended we ask every Catholic to think carefully about how & when they will return to Mass. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday, easing the pressure of numbers for Sundays & allowing a more gradual return to the Eucharist for more people.” (cited from the letter of the Archbishops of England & Wales).
From Saturday July 4th we hope our churches will be open for public Masses, however numbers inside our buildings will be limited for the safety of parishioners & there will be noticeable changes i.e. no singing, no votive candles, no walking about in church once shown to a pew etc. Stewards will advise parishioners arriving about seating.
If our churches reach their maximum capacity allowing for social distancing then other parishioners will have to remain outdoors (Holy Communion will be brought to them) so a portable chair carried in your car may be an idea! Toilets will remain closed.
Reopening of churches for Private Prayer
From Monday, 15th June 2020, Catholic Churches in England are being allowed to open for individual private prayer. The conditions for this are that social distancing, stewarding and sanitizing arrangements have been put in place and agreed. This does not mean that every church in our Diocese will be able to open immediately, and it may be that some churches will not be able to open for some time. Please, do be patient and understanding; there may be a number of very good reasons why individual churches will not be able to re-open straightaway.
Individual parishes will publish the opening times and days of when the church will be open. This will depend very much on the availability of volunteer stewards and with social distancing arrangements having been put in place. Please continue to check the websites of your local Catholic churches and the Diocesan website for further information.
I am sure that like myself you delighted to hear some good news from the Government this weekend in regard to the gradual opening up of elements of our culture and society which were so hastily, but rightly and necessarily, closed at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. One aspect of this, dear of our hearts, was the announcement that from next week Places of Worship will be allowed to open for Private Prayer. Cardinal Vincent Nichols said, on behalf of us all, that he was “grateful for this development.” He went on to say that “Not every Catholic church will reopen on 15th June” and local decisions and provision will be necessary to lead this process. These final comments were in line with his earlier statement: “It is important that every care is taken to ensure that the guidance given for this limited opening is fully observed, not least by those entering our churches. Our preparation is taking place with thoroughness [allowing visits to] a church for individual prayer, benefiting from the sacredness of that space, [to be] done safely and confidently.”
It would be my hope that our churches could open their doors for Private Prayer possibly as early as sometime next week. In order for this to be done, in accordance with guidance already given, and more yet to come, help will be needed. Hence a Monday e-mail, in an attempt to throw wide the net and invite parishioners to let me know if they would be interested / able to assist in the role of Steward.
At this time I am just seeking names and a contact number, as I am awaiting the full guidance which will be given by the Diocese later this week. However there are known limits on who can act as a Steward. The initial two are (a) age (you must be under-70 years of age, and not live with anyone over-70) and (b) not be in a vulnerable category or live with someone in a vulnerable category. ‘Vulnerable’ categories include age, but also various underlying health conditions. So if you are in either of these categories, sadly you will not be able to fulfil this role.
In these difficult times we have put together several documents which we hope will keep you updated in this unprecedented period.