CORONAVIRUS  The Bishops of England and Wales


A statement from the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales on relaxing restrictions 

Guidance for Churches – January 2022


Following the announcement by HM Government on 19th January that the measures put in place to mitigate against covid virus transmission as “Plan B” will be lifted in full on 27th January, the following guidance is offered to the dioceses of England and Wales. The material in this briefing has been agreed with Public Health officials and follows the regulations for England and concur with the regulations in place for Wales which take effect on 28th January 2022 (apart from the note regarding face coverings below).

Acts of Worship

The main mitigation against serious health issues arising from covid infection is to be fully vaccinated; this means two doses plus a booster for anyone aged 16 or over. The vaccine programme in England and Wales has had a major impact in reducing death and serious illness from infection with Covid-19. The Church in England and Wales supports the vaccination programme and encourages people to be vaccinated.

The scientific consensus is that society is moving towards the stage where the virus is transitioning from the pandemic phase to the endemic phase, but as stated by HM Government, there is still a risk associated with gathering for sustained periods in enclosed spaces and therefore there needs to be continued caution by all against infection.

This, however, has to be balanced against the need to move forward safely towards a normal lifestyle and these two positions will always be held in tension. This holding in tension is the key to living safely with Covid-19, namely keeping infections from a virus that cannot be eliminated to levels which minimise disruption to people’s lives.

This guidance has been written with this principle in mind.

Alongside the positive effects of covid vaccination, it should be stressed that any people displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and not participate in acts of worship in church. This is good practice for any transmissible illness. Medical advice should be sought as appropriate for those who are ill.

The main form of virus transmission is via personal oral or nasal aerosol. Those attending an act of worship may continue to wear a face covering (both nose and mouth) whilst in the church building (NB face coverings remain mandatory in Wales until further advised). There is no need for formal social distancing in church buildings, although those present should be sensitive to the needs of others around them. Churches should continue to ensure there is good ventilation, balancing this against the need for church heating, especially at this time.

It is clear from scientific evidence that transmission from surfaces (touch transmission) is now minimal and so the use of hymn books, missals and other worship aids can be resumed with immediate effect.

Whilst it is still good practice to sanitise hands on entry and exit of churches, there is no need for readers (or other ministers) to sanitise their hands before reading or performing other ministries in the church.

All ministers of Holy Communion (clergy and lay people) should still sanitise their hands for the distribution of Holy Communion.

Holy water stoups may be refilled but care should be seen that the water is changed regularly (at a minimum of once a week).

Usual forms of church cleaning are sufficient.

Regarding the liturgical action, there should be a return to the normal mode of celebrating Mass respecting the integrity of the Rite. This would include the reintroduction of the Prayer of the Faithful (where this has not been reinstated already), the Sign of Peace may be offered again if felt appropriate, and Holy Communion should be distributed at the usual place and in the usual mode (i.e. with the faithful approaching the minister in an orderly procession).

For the time being, Holy Communion must continue to be given under one kind only (the Sacred Host) and for concelebrations of clergy, intinction of the Precious Blood with the Sacred Host should continue to be used.

Where there is physical touch as part of another Rite of the Church (for example, anointing of the sick, ashing of foreheads etc) the use of cotton buds is no longer mandated, but the hands should be cleaned well before and after the Rite.

Congregational singing may continue and there is a general encouragement to wear face coverings while singing. However, it is recognised that not everyone will feel able to do this.

Social Activities

Parish social activities can resume (if they have been suspended) from the revert date to Plan A.

It is recommended that the normal Health and Safety risk assessment for the activity and the space used for the activity is reviewed for these types of gatherings.

Home Visits

Home visits can continue (or begin again if they had been suspended) by priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and other volunteers.

The minister to the sick or housebound person should take care to ensure that the number of visits to different homes in a single session of visiting is managed.

It is recommended (outside hospital and hospice chaplaincies and social care institutions who have infection control in place) that the number of people visited is assessed beforehand to prevent the possibilities of transmitting the virus between people. Assessing the time spent with people and ensuring that there is good ventilation and cleanliness during the visit are also good practice.


Whilst this reduction of restrictions brings about a more normal way of living, the Covid-19 virus is still in circulation, and this should be in the mind of those participating in the life of the Church as time goes forward holding in balance the need for personal safety and taking responsibility for that safety.

Rev. Canon Christopher Thomas

24th January 2022


28th November 2021

SUNDAY OBLIGATION REMAINS SUSPENDED: but Bishops of England & Wales encourage everyone to honour the Lord’s Day: see full text here:


From the Bishops of England and Wales

Go to their website for more detail

COP26 – UN Climate Summit

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference taking place in Glasgow from Sunday, 31 October to Friday, 12 November 2021. In our ‘What’s On‘ area, we have a section for COP26 offering a useful guide to the summit, produced by CAFOD, with tips to help you get involved.

Our response is rooted in prayer and you can also download our prayer card and poster. Check out our ‘Environmental Case Studies’ for examples of how parishes, organisations, academic institutions, and other church groups are collaborating to help protect our common home.

Prayerful Opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill 2021

In a brief statement issued after the Second Reading in the House of Lords on 22 October 2021, Bishop John Sherrington, Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Bishops’ Conference, has thanked Catholics for writing to peers and praying that Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill might be defeated. Read more.

We have a full section on the Bill and how you can make your voice heard. Read more.

For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission

A two-year ‘synodal’ process is taking place in the Catholic Church that culminates in the final Synod Gathering of Bishops in Rome in October 2023. The overall theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission”. Find out more.

But what exactly is ‘synodality’ and what does it mean for Catholics in England and Wales? Fr Chris Thomas, General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference and Father Jan Nowotnik, Director of Mission, discuss the process and explain this invitation to communion, participation and mission.


Sunday – It is our Day

Statement from the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales

17th October 2021

On 19 July, the current legislative powers which assist the mitigations against the Covid-19 virus transmission will be rescinded by HM Government. Nevertheless, there will be an encouragement to personal and corporate responsibility in this area; as the Prime Minister said in his most recent statement “The pandemic is not over.” Even without this legislation in place, the Church in England and Wales will be adopting a cautious approach to capacity and activity within our buildings, especially at corporate acts of worship.

Sunday Obligation

We are mindful of the certain fact that the Covid-19 virus is still circulating in society. Vaccines provide genuine protection against the worst effects of the virus, yet we recognise the legitimate fear on the part of some who otherwise desire to gather for Holy Mass. It is our continuing judgement, therefore, that it is not possible at the present time for all of the faithful to attend Mass on a Sunday thus fulfilling their duty to God.

It is hoped that it will be possible for all Catholics in England and Wales to fulfil this most important Church precept, that of the Sunday Obligation, by the First Sunday in Advent 2021.

In the meantime, all Catholics are asked to do their best to participate in the celebration of the weekly Sunday Mass and to reflect deeply on the centrality of Sunday worship in the life of the Church.

In April, following our Plenary Assembly, we offered a reflection on the experience of the extraordinary long months of the pandemic. It was titled The Day of the Lord. We also began to look at the way forward. We spoke about the important invitation to restore the Sunday Mass to its rightful centrality in our lives. We asked for a rekindling in our hearts of a yearning for the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, as our response to the total, sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. We said: “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.

”May this continue to be our striving during these coming months as we journey back to the full celebration of our Sunday Mass and our renewed observance of The Day of the Lord.

Bishops of England and Wales - on Pentec[...]
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Cardinal Vincent Nichols sent the following Pastoral Letter for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (13-13 February) to all parishes in the Diocese of Westminster.

Shortly it will be Ash Wednesday, a day rich in associations and symbolism. It marks the beginning a Lent, a time for turning again to the practice of our faith, in prayer, self-denial (fasting) and practical generosity (almsgiving). Ash Wednesday is the doorway into this season of renewal.

As we cross this threshold we customarily receive ashes on our foreheads, in the sign of the cross. This is a public mark of our turning again to God, seeking his mercy, forgiveness and help. We use these words: 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return'. Yes, we cannot pretend otherwise. Or: 'Repent, and believe in the Gospel'. Yes, we seek the one thing that is absolutely necessary: the grace of God.

This year receiving ashes in church is going to be difficult. Yes, our churches are safe if the protective measures are fulfilled. But we must all be very careful about travelling too far. Some churches will of course be open for the celebration of Mass as usual. But I have asked them not to make extra provision for Ash Wednesday. We must be so careful and cooperative in the measures we must take, to protect ourselves and to protect others.

I now want to emphasise an important point. Receiving ashes is an outward sign of an inner step, a movement of the heart towards our beloved Lord. This year I invite you to concentrate much more on this inner, spiritual movement than on its outward manifestation in the imposition of ashes.

My suggestion is this: celebrate Ash Wednesday at home, with your family, in the household or 'support bubble' of which you are a part. Gather for a while. Read the prayer which I offer. Bless each other by making the sign of the cross on each other's forehead. Spent some time praying in a way that you know. But please, make this a prayer of your heart for God's mercy upon this world struggling to cope with the terrible pandemic and the devastation it is bringing.

Here is a prayer:

'Lord God, with all our hearts we beseech you: have mercy on your people; spare your people; strengthen all people in the struggle against the havoc of this pandemic. Lord our God, without you we are so weak and our courage so limited. Give us your strength; give us your love; give us wisdom and skill to continue this fight. Spare your people, O Lord we pray. Comfort those who mourn and gather into your kingdom all who have died. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, who died and rose to life, who lives and reigns with you, for ever and ever. Amen.'

Then, bless each other, using one of the two traditional formulas I have quoted earlier in this letter. Then continue with your own prayers. A pattern is suggested at the end of this letter.

As a child, my mother or father used to come to my bedside each night to settle me for sleep. I was kissed goodnight and then, either my Mum or Dad would make the sign of the cross on my forehead. They gave me their blessing. This brought me such security. I remember it to this day. Then I slept in peace.

So please do not hesitate, within your household or 'bubble', to bless each other on this Ash Wednesday. We do well to remember together our need of the good Lord. Together, and through each other, he wants to comfort and reassure us of his loving presence. If, on this day, we set aside every pretence that we can do everything of ourselves, then we create in our hearts and lives the space for God's grace and strength to find a home in us.

This is the great invitation of Ash Wednesday and of the weeks of Lent which follow. Please do take up this invitation. Open your hearts to the gift of God's presence to support, comfort and strengthen you. This year, it may be best to do this, not by going to church, but by sharing the prayer, the blessing and this moment of dedication within the love of your family and friends.

Please do include me in your prayers, too.

May God bless you all,

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster


Ash Wednesday at Home

- Gather together and start with the Sign of the Cross.

- Read the Gospel for today. It is from St Matthew's Gospel, 6.1-6 and 16-18.

- Say together the prayer given in this Pastoral Letter.

- Make the Sign of the Cross on each other's forehead, using the words you choose.

- Pray together: the Our Father; the Hail Mary; each one with his or her own prayer or intention.

- Conclude with the 'Glory be to the Father...'

- Give each other a sign of peace.

So Lent begins!

Open churches vital for resilience during lockdown, says Cardinal

Monday, January 4th, 2021 @ 9:23 pm


With the announcement of a new lockdown for England to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said:

“The regular practice of our faith in God is a well-established source of both personal resilience and dedicated service to those in need. Such resilience and enduring service are vital in these difficult circumstances.“I am glad that no measures have been introduced that would obstruct or curtail this essential source of energy for the common good. Catholic parishes will continue to serve the needs of their local community.“In one parish, for example, the provision of food for the needy has increased by 400% since March last year.”The latest lockdown restrictions come into force on 5 January 2021.


From the Bishop's of England and Wales: Covid 19



There is currently no change to the attending of Mass or for periods of private prayer in churches.


The capacity limit for each place of worship should be set by what is possible within COVID-secure social distancing guidelines for that building – as explained in the Places of Worship Guidance.


If you are attending Mass with others, then the group you are attending with should not exceed more than six people. This group of six can be made up of people from outside your household, but strict social distancing must be maintained between members of different households at all times.

All should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise all interactions with those they do not live with within the church building and immediately outside of it.

Therefore, when travelling to, entering and inside places of worship, people should observe strict social distancing from anyone not in their household – even if they are attending as a group of six.

The only exception to this new rule is where a single household (or support bubble) contains more than six people, but the same rules on social interaction with others outside their group should apply.

No person who lives separately to this household or is not included in the support bubble is permitted to accompany this larger group.

The wearing of a face covering is mandatory for those who attend Mass or church for private prayer unless they have an exemption from this.


Priests should remain mindful of their own personal situation with respect to potential exposure to virus transmission. It is permissible for those in the 70+ age group, and those who are vulnerable to infection, to celebrate Mass, but it is strongly advised that they do not distribute Holy Communion and take particular care to be constantly socially distant from the congregation.

They should return to the sacristy directly after Mass is ended.


Face Coverings

Face coverings will be mandatory in Places of Worship from Saturday 8 August 2020. All those who are attending churches must wear a face covering 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.

Priests in the sanctuary providing they are sufficiently distant (2m or more) from the congregation do not need to wear a face covering except when distributing Holy Communion (please see below).

Other ministers in the sanctuary should wear face coverings and remain socially distant from the celebrant.


Celebration of Mass within Church Buildings

Before the Mass

Only those necessary should be in the sacristy before Mass.

The celebrant, sacristan, or server should prepare everything for the celebration of Mass with care.

Single-use gloves should be worn at this stage.

Particular care should be taken over the preparation of the elements for Holy Communion.

The altar breads for distribution to the people should be placed into a clean covered ciborium (a pall can be placed over a dish paten).

Sufficient altar breads for each celebration should be placed within at this stage.

 A separate ciborium/paten should be prepared for each person who will distribute Holy Communion.

The cover of the ciborium or dish paten should not be removed until the time for distribution of Holy Communion.

The priest should prepare his own chalice and paten with a large altar bread for consecration.

The chalice should have a purificator and a pall.

The purificator should be used only once and then laundered.

He should prepare the cruets of wine and water and his own bowl for the lavabo.

Again, the towel should be used only once and then laundered.

All hymnbooks and missals and other published material normally used by the congregation and not meant for single use should be removed from the church.

The Holy Water stoups should be dry.

Until further instruction is given on singing, there should be no congregational singing at Mass.


During the Mass

Any worship aids (missalettes etc.) should be for single use and taken with the user when the Mass ends. They should not be left in the church at the end of Mass.

Servers must wear face coverings whilst in the Sanctuary.

Deacons should wear face coverings apart from the proclamation of the Gospel when he should remove the face covering at the lectern and replace is before moving away from it (providing the lectern is sufficiently distant from the congregation).

The priest, and if present, deacon and server, should remain socially distant at all times on the sanctuary during the celebration of Mass.

This is particularly important at the Gospel (for the deacon’s blessing), the Preparation of the Gifts, and during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

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.

The homily should be brief, to minimise the time that people are congregated in the church building.

The Prayer of the Faithful should be omitted.

There should be no offertory procession of the gifts of bread and wine to the altar; the priest should have these on the credence table or the altar before Mass begins.

There should be no sharing of the collection plate or bag.

People should be encouraged to make their donation to the church online or via standing order.

Plates or other collecting boxes for cash offerings should be placed at the entrances and exits of churches, and this should be overseen by stewards.

The collection should be consolidated into plastic bags, sealed, placed into a secure location and left for 72 hours before counting.

Counters should wear gloves when doing this task and the area should be well ventilated and cleaned before and afterwards.


The Communion Rite

Members of the congregation should not exchange the sign of peace.

After the prayer and its response “Behold the Lamb of God… Lord I am not worthy,” the priest should hold up the Host to the Congregation and say audibly “The Body of Christ” to which the people should respond “Amen.”

In the same way, he elevates the chalice and says, “The Blood of Christ” and again the people respond “Amen.”

The priest should receive Holy Communion under both kinds using his own Host and Chalice.

The priest will need to explain this to the congregation at this point.

There are two options for the distribution of Holy Communion. In both cases, because the people have already acclaimed the presence of the Lord, at the Priest’s Communion, the People’s Communion is distributed in silence with no dialogue between minister and communicant.

The priest, and those who are distributing Holy Communion should wear face coverings when doing so.

Option 1 -Once the priest has received Holy Communion, he should put on his face covering and cleanse his hands with alcohol sanitiser before opening the pre-prepared ciborium for the Communion of the people.

If there is a deacon assisting, or any other Minister of Holy Communion, they should similarly cleanse their hands and then receive communion from the priest from the people’s ciborium, and under one kind only.

They should then put on their face coverings and cleanse their hands again before receiving their ciborium from which they remove the covering or pall if it is still in place.

At the place where communion is to be distributed, a physical barrier should be placed, for example a prie-dieu (kneeler on the priest’s side) or small table to socially distance the priest distributing Holy Communion from communicants.

Communion must be given silently in the hand only, with the communicant standing, and avoiding any physical contact.

People should wait in their pews until instructed to move forward to the priest for Holy Communion by the Stewards, always aware of the regulations on social distancing in the orderly queue.

When they approach the priest, they should do so with arms at “full stretch” so that there is a good distance between the priest and the communicant. Their hands, palms upwards, one of top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible.

The communicant should unloop their face covering and consume the Sacred Host and then replace the face covering before moving back to their pews in an orderly manner.

Once Communion is complete, the priest returns to the altar and places the unused Hosts, without touching them, into the Tabernacle, he then can remove his face covering before he cleanses the sacred vessels himself in the usual way.

Option 2- The priest receives Holy Communion as described and immediately cleanses his paten and chalice.

He then holds a reverent silence before the Prayer after Communion, giving the Blessing and dismissal.

At this point, the priest puts on his face covering, cleanses his hands with hand sanitiser and the other Ministers of Holy Communion who will assist the priest come forward, cleanse their hands and receive Holy Communion under one kind.

They should then put on their face coverings and cleanse their hands again before receiving their ciborium from which they remove the covering or pall if it is still in place.

They then move to the points for distribution and communicants are stewarded forward in an orderly manner to receive Holy Communion as above, and then immediately leave the Church.

The remaining Blessed Sacrament is placed into the Tabernacle, the priest then can remove his face covering before the vessels are cleansed in the usual way.


After the Celebration of Mass

The procession from the sanctuary at the end of the Mass should ensure good social distancing.

The sanctuary party should return to the sacristy after Mass. If the clergy wish to greet the people, they should remove their vestments, put on a face covering (if in church) and not engage in any physical contact with parishioners, who should be encouraged to return home and not remain.

The celebrant should place the used altar linens into a receptacle for laundry. All sacred vessels should be washed in hot water with a little neutral soap and dried completely before storing.

Any discarded printed materials should be removed and bagged for disposal.

The church should be closed after the Mass has finished in order to clean the space according to the Bishops’ Conference guidelines on individual prayer.

If there is cause for concern regarding the possible contamination of clerical vestments worn during the celebration of Mass, these should be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest water setting allowed for the fabric and allowing time for them to dry completely.


Celebrations of Mass Outdoors

If there is space for the celebration of Mass outdoors around the Church, which allows for the social distancing guidelines of Government to be fulfilled, and that all of the above liturgical advice can be done safely, then there is no reason why Mass cannot be celebrated outside of a church within the boundary of the parish property.

If a Catholic parish school or its grounds is to be used for Mass, a separate risk assessment has to be done, the appropriate school authority (Governing Body or Trust) has to give its permission, and both the parish and school insurers should be informed before the event takes place.




It is important that during this time all places of worship continue to provide hand sanitiser at points of access and egress.

There should be stewarding and managed social distancing within the church space and that full cleaning of the space should be done immediately after the church has been in use.

The time that people are in the church should be minimised (so the use of liturgical choices should reflect this, including a short homily, the omission of the prayers of the faithful and any other permitted mitigations) and the church must be well ventilated even during the liturgical celebrations.

There should be no congregational singing as part of the liturgical celebrations and if a choir or cantors sing, the choices of music should be such that the exposure time is not excessively prolonged.

It is very important to encourage all who attend our churches to abide by these Covid security restrictions and to protect themselves and those around them.

It is also an opportunity to thank those who clean and steward our churches for their generosity of service to the local community.

Rev. Canon Christopher Thomas

4 January 2021


The first act of faith is the praise of God. It is deep and constant prayer.

This must be at the root of our lives, as individuals, as families, as households.

I urge you, then, to stay faithful to daily patterns of prayer.

Pray privately; pray together at home; come to church to pray; pray without ceasing.


I thank God that our churches remain open to be places of peace and prayer, and the live streaming of the Mass, celebrated every day in our churches, is a great help. But that too must be rooted in our own life of prayer.

Only by receiving the living water from the Lord will we pass through this arid time. Indeed, if we stay close to the Lord, we will be changed for the better by this time of crisis.


The second act of faith is humble service. This is the road we are to follow: service of each other; outreach to the lonely; nourishment for the hungry; compassion for the sick, the isolated, the dying, especially those facing death alone, and those who mourn.

Let’s do it.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster


Cardinal to abuse survivors:

I’m very sorry and distressed that this damage was done to you and done in our name

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 @ 3:37 pm


Cardinal to abuse survivors:

I, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, speaks shortly after the publication of the IICSA Report on the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

First and foremost, Cardinal Nichols addresses the victims and survivors of abuse.

Today, IICSA publishes its report into us – into the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s a difficult day, it’s a painful day. But most of all, I believe it’s a painful day for those who have suffered abuse in their childhood because those wounds are almost permanent – they run so deep and they will be re-awakened, I think, today.

So I thank IICSA for their work, for putting a light on things that have been hidden and helping us to see the next step of our journey in these terrible, difficult matters.

Most of all, I want to speak to anyone who has suffered childhood sexual abuse in the context of the Catholic community. I understand something… something… of what you live with and what you’ve gone through. I want to say again, how very sorry and distressed I am that this damage was done to you and done to you in our name. And I promise you that we will keep working.

I want people who have suffered sexual abuse to come forward and to come forward with some confidence that they will be listened to. It won’t be so difficult as it was in the past. But you will be listened to and you will be helped. Now we’re determined to carry on building the quality of our response to every single allegation of sexual abuse.


Independent Review

While IICSA has been doing its work, we have not been sitting on our hands. We have a fresh, independent review. And what’s very important about this, is that some of those who have survived this trauma in their lives have worked with it. They’ve had a noble spirit and they have become our wise counsellors. So that this review, which we will consider alongside all the recommendations of IICSA, is actually shaped by survivors. I thank those who work with us in this way because their contribution is vital.


Pain and Resolve

So today we share a lot of pain. Today we express a lot of resolve that we will continue solidly to work hard to improve our response because, you know, there’s no conflict between the pain and the life of a survivor and the health of the body of the Catholic Church. We have to take in that pain, embrace it, feel it, and know better how to respond. Today I thank all who work hard in safeguarding in the Church. I want everyone to know that our resolve to work on this is strong and firm and ongoing.


Bishops’ Meeting

With this report from IICSA and with the work of this new review that we’ve had, we bishops will be meeting next week and we will take the decisions that shape and point the way forward. Together we will continue to give our full attention and dedication to this.



Statement on the Four-Week National Lockdown in England and a Call to Prayer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 @ 6:16 pm

Today, Parliament passed into law the Regulations governing many aspects of activity in the whole of England until Wednesday, 2 December.

These Regulations prohibit the gathering of people for communal worship in churches and other religious buildings.

Churches remain open and in use for activities other than communal worship, including personal prayer and support for those in need.

Funeral Masses and funeral services may be held. Please refer to the Regulations (for places of worship see paragraph 18) and associated Guidance.

Despite profound misgivings it is important that we, as responsible citizens, observe these Regulations, which have the force of law:

“Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity”           Titus 3:1

We do this in solidarity with so many others on whom are being imposed restrictions which impact severely on their lives and livelihoods.

It is also important to recognise that these Regulations are not an attack on religious belief. However, they do demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the essential contribution made by faith communities to the well-being, resilience and health of our society. At this difficult moment, we ask that, as a Catholic community, we make full use of our churches as places of individual prayer and sources of solace and help.

Daily Prayer

We must sustain each other in our patterns of prayer, joining a national shared moment of prayer each day at 6pm, and observing the Vigil of Christ the King (21 November) as a day of prayer for the ending of this pandemic.

We encourage you all in your practical service and support of each other and those around you in need. This pathway of prayer and service is the royal road we are to take as a gracious witness in our society today.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols              President

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP      Vice-President

When writing ‘The Call of Creation’ in 2002, we, the Bishops of England and Wales, said that “care for the environment presents a major challenge for the whole of humanity in the 21st century.”


Let us pray for wisdom and courage for the path ahead.

Father, Lord of all creation,

we praise you with all your creatures

and the whole universe that comes forth from the work of Your hands.

We acknowledge the privilege and responsibility

that You give us as stewards of Your creation.

In our ignorance we have done damage to our common home

and our brothers and sisters are suffering.Through faithfully following your Son

guide and direct us to prepare for a better future.

Teach us to contemplate You in the beauty of the universe,

for all things speak of You.

Give us the grace to recognise, respect and protect all You have created,

using wisely all that you have entrusted to us.Holy Spirit,

who first hovered over the dawn of creation and drew order out of the chaos

help us to build your kingdom of justice, love, peace and beauty where the poor of the earth are crying out.You, who live and reign, world without end, Amen.


Educating towards a Christian Spiritual of Ecology

The passing of time makes this challenge clearer. It is now an unprecedented ‘ecological crisis.’2,3 “A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path to renewal.”4 “We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.”5 Our Christian responsibility for the planet begins with appreciation of the goodness of all of God’s creation: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31). “For you love all things that exist and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24).


Growing in Awareness of Creation

“Our Sister, Mother Earth,”6 “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”7 Expert study points to a devastating losses in biodiversity, with up to a million species facing extinction,8 and an estimated 1.0°C of global warming since pre-industrial levels. This warming is already manifesting itself in changes to the intensity and frequency of climate and weather extremes, impacting on natural and human systems.9 The worst impacts are felt by developing countries10 and by populations that are already disadvantaged or vulnerable.11Pope Francis states that our relationship with the planet has become confrontational,12 based on the illusion of unlimited growth on a planet with finite resources. This risks leaving a degraded environment for future generations. In the past, a lack of understanding could be claimed, but harm done going forward is done with full knowledge of the impact our activities. Younger generations are not blind to this fact. We must both consider the kind of world we want to leave to children who are now growing up,13 and find responsible ways of doing so.


Discerning the threats to our common home

Pope Francis is forthright when he says: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.”14 Scientists talk of ‘tipping points’ in ecosystems and in global warming which, once reached, could plunge us into a much changed environment from which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find our way out. If we are to avoid such scenarios, a concerted effort and widespread change to our current lifestyles will be necessary. These include approximately halving our carbon emissions, globally, by 2030 at the latest.15This is not a primarily scientific concern. Pope St John Paul II explained that “the seriousness of the ecological issue lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis.”16 Pope Francis reminds us that everything is interconnected, that we are faced with a complex crisis that is both environmental and social, and that “genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”17The challenge before us is to learn to care, in the same breath, not only for the beauty of God’s creation, its bounteous biodiversity and life sustaining ecosystems, but also for the unborn, the elderly, those who are victims of exploitation, and others thrown away by a society focused on the satisfaction of our supposed needs as consumers.18 “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”19 We have only one heart, and the same heart that fails to show care for the natural world is the same heart that will fail to show compassion to the vulnerable.


 A Catholic Response

It is possible to change course. Scientific research gives us an insight into what our future earth may look like. But all projections depend on the actions that we take today. We must take action urgently. We are aware of the common but differentiated responsibilities, with greater attention given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.”20 We must face this challenge with confidence in the knowledge that the worst effects this ecological crisis can still be avoided. “Nobody can go off into battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half of the battle and we bury our talents.”21Central to this challenge will be the development of a Christian spirituality of ecology, and a call to a new lifestyle, beginning in personal and family life. The crisis we face is a summons to a profound interior conversion, whereby the effects of our relationship with Jesus Christ become evident in our relationship with the world around us.22As disciples, we are invited to be part of the redeeming mission of Christ, and to approach our task with joy and gratitude. “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”23 Whilst capable of the worst, human beings are also able to start again and choose what is good24 so as to more fully participate in the drama of salvation history, leading all creatures back to their creator. “…all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.”25


A Way Forward

We look to avoid the worst consequences of this ecological crisis by engaging now and over the next decade on this ‘long path to renewal.’As Bishops, we will review the ‘Call of Creation’ to reflect on our present situation and to promote good practice for diocese, parishes, schools, families and individuals. We need a more considered relationship with our God, our neighbour and the earth through the way we manage our resources as a Church.


We, the Bishops of England and Wales commit ourselves and invite our people to engage in this urgent challenge, so that together we show leadership by our actions.





1: The Call of Creation (Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, 2002)

2: Laudato Si’ [15]

3: Plenary Resolution, The Stewardship of God’s Creation (CBCEW, 13/05/2019)

4: Laudato Si’ [202]

5: Laudato Si’ [53]

6: Laudato Si’ [1]

7: Laudato Si’ [2]

8: Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, 2019)

9: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’ Special Report (2018)

10: Laudato Si’ [25]

11: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’ Special Report (2018)

12: Laudato Si’ [106]

13: Laudato Si’ [160]

14: Laudato Si’ [161]

15: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’ Special Report (2018)

16: Message of his holiness Pope John Paul II for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 1 January 1990 [13]

17: Laudato Si’ [70]

18: The Call of Creation (Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, 2002)

19: Laudato Si’ [120]

20: Laudato Si’ [31, 170]

21: Evangelii Gaudium [85]

22: Laudato Si’ [217]

23: Laudato Si’ [12]

24: Laudato Si’ [205]

25: Laudato Si’ [83]

A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops of the Catholic Church in England regarding the resumption of collective worship in England: June 25th 2020

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Tuesday we heard the announcement that, from the 4 July this year, places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services. We welcome this news with great joy. Since the lockdown began, members of all faiths have faced restrictions on how they have been able to celebrate important religious festivals. Our own experience of Easter was unlike any other we have known. Now, in our churches, and with our people, we can look forward again to celebrating the central mysteries of our faith in the Holy Eucharist.

The recent reopening of our churches for individual private prayer was an important milestone on our journey towards resuming communal worship. Our churches that have opened have put in place all the measures needed to ensure the risks of virus transmission are minimised. This includes effective hand sanitisation, social distancing, and cleaning. We remain committed to making sure these systems of hygiene and infection control meet Government and public health standards.

We want to thank everyone within the Catholic community for sustaining the life of faith in such creative ways, not least in the family home. We thank our priests for celebrating Mass faithfully for their people, and for the innovative ways in which they have enabled participation through live-streaming and other means. We are grateful for the pastoral care shown by our clergy to those for whom this time of lockdown has been especially difficult, and, in particular, towards those who have been bereaved. We recognise too the chaplaincy services that have played a vital role in supporting those most in need. Gaining from the experience of all that we have been through, and bringing those lessons into the future, we must now look forward.

With the easing of restrictions on worship with congregations, we tread carefully along the path that lies ahead. Our lives have been changed by the experience of the pandemic and it is clear that we cannot simply return to how things were before lockdown. We remain centred on the Lord Jesus and His command at the Last Supper to “do this in memory of me.” We must now rebuild what it means to be Eucharistic communities, holding fast to all that we hold dear, while at the same time exploring creative ways to meet changed circumstances.

It is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. A significant number of churches may remain closed as they are unable to meet the requirements for opening for individual prayer. Fulfilling these requirements is a precondition for any church opening after the 4th July for the celebration of Mass with a congregation

Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. This will determined locally in accordance with social distancing requirements. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices. This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal’.

We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass. Our priests may need to consider whether it is possible to celebrate additional Masses at the weekends. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday. This will ease the pressure of numbers for Sunday celebrations and allow a gradual return to the Eucharist for more people.

Moving forward, there will still be many people who cannot attend Mass in person. We therefore ask parishes, wherever possible, to continue live-streaming Sunday Mass, both for those who remain shielding and vulnerable, and also for those unable to leave home because of advanced age or illness.

When we return to Mass there will some differences in how the celebration takes place. For the time being, there will be no congregational singing and Mass will be shorter than usual. None of this detracts from the centrality of our encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. We ask everyone to respect and follow the guidance that will be issued and the instructions in each church.

“As I have loved you,” said the Lord Jesus, “so you must love each other.” (Jn 13:34) The lockdown has brought forth remarkable acts of charity, of loving kindness, from Catholics across our communities as they have cared for the needy and vulnerable.

We have seen love in action through charitable works, and through the service of many front-line keyworkers who are members of our Church. Now we can begin to return to the source of that charity, Christ himself, present for us sacramentally, body, blood, soul and divinity, in Holy Communion. As we prepare to gather again to worship, let us, respectful of each other, come together in thanksgiving to God for the immense gift of the Holy Eucharist.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool

Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter. We are praying for the Peters and Pauls of today’s church, and treasuring the faith and endeavouring to pass it on to others.



How to pray and re-connect with the church as places of worship re-open for private prayer


Archbishop John Wilson, the Archbishop of Southwark, has spoken to us as his Cathedral, St George’s, and other churches that can safely do so, are reopening for individual, private prayer.

This is a excerpt from a longer podcast interview above that offers a simple reflection on prayer and being in the presence of God as lockdown is eased across our countries and a staged re-opening of churches is permitted.


Excerpt Podcast Transcript

So today, we’re opening our church – St. George’s Cathedral, here in Southwark, after this period of lockdown. We’re opening it just for a limited time.

And here in the cathedral, we’ve got all the important social distancing measures in place. We’ve got all the signs in place. We’ve got the sanitisers at the entrance and the exit. We’ve got separate doors to come in and out. We’ll have stewards on-hand. So everything’s ready to welcome people. And I think that’s the most important aspect – we want to offer a sense of welcome – whoever you are.

If you need to come and first of all just find time and quiet in a sacred place, then the cathedral is is open for you. If, perhaps, you want to come and pray – and maybe you’ve not prayed for a while or you’ve got out of the habit of praying – then let me offer you just some simple words of encouragement.

The first thing is to imagine your prayer as talking from your heart about the things that matter to you, to your best friend. And when you come into the church, find a quiet space. All the benches have been properly laid out, some of them put together to enable social distancing, but you can find a quiet space to sit or to kneel.

Simply close your eyes and in silence, just say to yourself, Lord God, I believe you are here. And I open my heart to you now. And then just speak from your heart. Speak to God, tell Him the things that are on your mind. Maybe the things that first are worrying you – the things that have been a real concern during this time of lockdown. Maybe about your family, maybe about your work, maybe about our city, our world. Just speak to Him from your heart, tell him anything that’s worrying you. Share it with him. And know that He’s listening.

Then perhaps think about the particular people that you want to give thanks for, the particular events that you want to give thanks for during this time of lockdown. Who’s been there for you? Who sustained you? Who’s really helped you? You want to say, “Lord, thank you that that person was there – that that experience was there”. Just let these things tumble out from your heart – don’t overthink them, just speak. And know He listens. Because He loves you.

Perhaps if you get to the point where you think you’ve said everything that you’ve got to say, just be with your eyes closed. And if you know the Our Father, just pray it quietly, slowly, savouring each word.

If you don’t know the Our Father, take a simple phrase. Like

 “Heavenly Father, give me your love”. And repeat it.

Heavenly Father, guide me moving forward”. And repeat it.

Heavenly Father, protect those who I love”. And repeat it.

Prayer at its best is when it’s simple. So speak to your heart, to the God who loves you and allow Him to reassure you with His peace.


Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2020

Westminster Cathedral

Homily of Cardinal Vincent Nichols


Life has been so strange for these last ten weeks. There has never been a time quite like, difficult yet gifted. For, in fact, these weeks have been full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whose coming on the group of the first disciples of the Lord we celebrate today. We thank God for the giving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then and now.


A few days ago, I had one of these 'virtual meetings' with all the men who are in preparation for service as priests in our parishes. There were over 20 of them, many now part of a 'household of a presbytery' where they help out in the ministry of the priests. Their stories were full of the presence of the Holy Spirit.


They spoke of their joy and encouragement in being able to share in the life of the priests, who had welcomed them so warmly into their homes. Such gracious hospitality - a touch of the Holy Spirit.


They spoke of finding that prayer was at the heart of each day and that these weeks were giving them time to grow closer to the Lord. Such prayer is the gift of the Holy Spirit who shows us how to pray when our hearts know not what to do. This gift is there for all of us. We just have to ask and open our hearts.


They spoke not only of their own prayer but of all the ways in which they have been drawn into sharing prayer with others, over the internet, over the telephone, in rosary circles, in Scripture reflection. Many of you are doing this. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who urges us to reach out to others and share with them the joy and consolation we find in the Lord's presence. We are just like those first disciples: we need this encouragement, this gift, in order to overcome our reticence and speak openly with others, with care and respect, of the greatness of our faith. There is no time like the presence for doing that!


The seminarians spoke too of sharing in the awful sadnesses of this time: being present at gravesides with such a small group of people bidding farewell to a lost one, feeling the painful breaking of bonds that death entails, without the comfort of wider family and friends.


The great work of the Holy Spirit is, of course, to bring about the astonishing miracle of the Mass. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine which we bring to the altar becomes the Body and Blood of the Lord, our nourishment for the journey of life. How hard it is to be away from this Eucharist Communion. How much we need to rely on the same Holy Spirit to bring the presence of the Lord into our hearts through a spiritual communion. The Holy Spirit can do that.


No confines, walls or rules can limit the gracious working of the Holy Spirit whose gifts are to be found in so many places.


Today we think of the group of disciples, with Mary, waiting, as they were bidden, in the Upper Room. The doors were closed. Jesus came and 'breathed upon them and said 'Receive the Holy Spirit'. Then they were empowered, fired by that gift which is also described as being 'like tongues of flame'. Flinging open the doors, out they came, ready at last for their mission.


We, too, are waiting to open these doors, the doors of our churches. The waiting has been hard but we have accepted the Government's decision to close our churches because the protection of life required it. But this week's announcements by the Prime Minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on 15 June, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed.


We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?


The importance of faith to so many people is clear. The role of faith in our society has been made even clearer in these last weeks: as a motivation for the selfless care of the sick and dying; as providing crucial comfort in bereavement; as a source of immense and effective provision for those in sharp and pressing need; as underpinning a vision of the dignity of the every person, a dignity that has to be at the heart of the rebuilding of our society.


The opening of our churches, even if just for individual prayer, helps to nurture this vital contribution to our common good.


Opening churches must be done safely. That is so important. We are confident that we can do so. We have developed expert guidance. We are ready to follow the Government's guidelines as soon as they are finalised. What is the risk to a person who sits quietly in a church which is being thoroughly cleaned, properly supervised and in which social distancing is maintained? The benefits of being able to access places of prayer is profound, on individual and family stability and, significantly, on their willingness to help others in their need.


It is now time to move to the phased opening of our churches.


Thankfully the mission of the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knows no boundaries. We see this every day. I am confident that the experience of this 'lock down' is teaching us many new ways of sharing faith, of explaining faith, of putting faith into practice. Thank you all, so much, for the witness you are giving.


In speaking today of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis says this:


'Dear friends, we are called to share the comfort of the Spirit, the closeness of God we have received. How do we do this? Everything we would like others to do for us let us do to them instead. Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement. Do we want someone to care for us? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned? Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today. Let us, then, become messengers of the comfort bestowed by the Spirit.' (Message of Pope Francis for 'Thy Kingdom Come').


Today we remember: the Holy Spirit is the fire that keeps us going; the water of the immensity of God's life within us; the dove of his peace after disaster; the wisdom that shows us right from wrong; the creative spirit who makes a work of art of our lives, the wind that will urge us on to our heavenly home, if we will let him do so!


Holy Spirit of God:


Thou of all consolers best


Thou the soul's delightful guest


Dost refreshing peace bestow.


Give us comfort when we die

Give us life with thee in high

Give us joy that never ends.



+Vincent Nichols


Today, (14th May), Cardinal Vincent Nichols

spoke to presenter Justin Webb

on BBC Radio 4 programme about how Catholic Churches can be safely re-opened for private prayer.

Click the red button below to listen to the broadcast.




A People who Hope in Christ

A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops

of the Catholic Church in England and Wales


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us. At a time when so many shadows are cast into our lives, and upon our world, the light of the resurrection shines forever to renew and restore our hope. In the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.’ (27 March 2020)


The impact of Covid-19, both nationally and internationally, has been immense. So much of what we take for granted has changed. Our health and physical interaction, our capacity to travel and gather, have all been affected. There is uncertainty in our future, especially with work and the country’s economy. As we know, very sadly, large numbers of people have died because of the coronavirus, and others have been or remain seriously ill. Keyworkers, not least in the National Health Service and care sectors, are serving selflessly to sustain the life of our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who is suffering because of Covid-19, and to all those battling to overcome its effects. May those who have died rest in peace and those who are bereaved find comfort.


When the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, this included places of worship and therefore Catholic churches. These measures were put in place to stem the general transmission of the virus. It is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society. This must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted.


None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. While the live-streaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments. Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognises the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts. We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and wellbeing.’ We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.


As the Government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life step by step. This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is shared by so many volunteers from our communities.


None of us knows, as yet, how or when the lockdown will end. There is likely to be a phased return to travelling and gathering. As a church, we are now planning for this time and our discussions with the statutory public health agencies and Government representatives are ongoing. Together with Catholics across England and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.


We want to acknowledge with gratitude the service of our fellow bishops and priests, our deacons and religious, our families and lay faithful, together with all our parish and school communities, for the wonderful ways the life of the faith is being nourished at this time, especially in the home. We also pay tribute to the Catholic organisations and networks that are working to support the vulnerable and needy.


On that first Easter day, the disciples were in lockdown and the doors were closed. In their isolation the Lord Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you.’ May the peace of the risen Lord reign in our hearts and homes as we look forward to the day we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the Sacrifice of Praise. We unite in asking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and assure you of our prayers and blessing


Yours devotedly in Christ,


Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool

Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff

John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales recognise that this time of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every person in our countries. Those who are sick, and their families, are suffering many hardships of isolation from contact with those they love.


Our front-line workers in hospitals and in care homes all over our lands are giving exceptional service to those who are vulnerable at this time.


In order to show a spiritual solidarity with all those who are involved in the ways described above, each week from next Thursday, a Catholic Bishop will celebrate Mass in their Cathedral which will be live-streamed for people to join.


This will take place every Thursday at 7pm.

21 May

Bishop Mark Davies

Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Peter of Alcantara, Shrewsbury


28 May

Bishop Terence Drainey

St Mary’s Cathedral, Middlesbrough

YouTube Channel

Participating in Holy Week while Remaining at Home

The Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Marcus Stock, has offered some reflections and suggestions for Catholics as we follow the sacred events of Holy Week in an entirely different way this year. Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

The importance of the Liturgy

The most important aspect of all our Catholic worship and liturgy is that we celebrate the sacred rites not as individuals, but as members of the one Body of Christ, the Church.

It is important that we do this even in these difficult times:

“For if we continue to love one another and to join in praising the Most Holy Trinity – all of us who are sons of God and form one family in Christ – we will be faithful to the deepest vocation of the Church”.

This is a profound reality even if, or when, our circumstances force us to be separated from the other members of the church by physical space or time.

The word liturgy means a “common work” or a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people”. The ‘Mass’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the common work of the Catholic Church. It is the official action of the Church, the participation of the People of God in the ‘work of God’. The liturgy is “the source and summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows”.

For Catholics, both of the Western and Eastern liturgical traditions, the solemn gathering of the People of God for the praise and worship of the Most Holy Trinity is not an ‘optional extra’ to our personal spirituality, or our individual life of prayer. No, the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is, “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit”. The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is central to our lives as Catholics, and that is why it is so painful for us now not to be able to gather together in our churches as a family.

We know that our churches are not just buildings; they are a ‘sacred space’, the House of God. Indeed, even within a church, there are separate dedicated spaces: the entrance hall or narthex, which provides an area for the faithful to gather for visiting with each other both before and after the celebration of Mass; there is the main body of the church, or ‘nave’ which is reserved for prayer, worship, and for making a ‘visit to the Lord’; and there are chapels or devotional areas which honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and the Saints and Martyrs of the Church. The sanctuary though, is the ‘Holy of Holies’, the place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered on the altar and the table from which we are fed the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ”.

How should we pray and participate at home?

Whether we are sharing in the celebration of the Mass through live-streaming or reading the sacred texts for the Liturgy of the Word and the prayers in our Missal, we should try to set apart an area of a room in our house that is given over to the Lord. This area does not have to be large; it simply needs to be the little ‘sanctuary’ of our home.

What should there be in this sanctuary? Pride of place should be given to a crucifix; this is the altar of our home, for “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption.” On Good Friday especially, we can spend some time in prayer before the crucifix, praying the Stations of the Cross, and at 15:00 or thereabouts kissing the crucifix or touching it lovingly with our hand, recalling that it was at this hour that Our Lord and Saviour gave up His life for us and for the salvation of the world.

An icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, should also be present. For as Our Lord hung dying upon the cross, nearby stood Mary His mother, to whom He entrusted us as her children, and her to us as our mother.

Live Online Liturgies

We also have to learn how to differentiate when we participate in a liturgy on our computer or television screen from the experience of watching other live-streamed events, videos or programmes. In church we have learnt, often from our childhood, how to watch and participate in the sacred actions of the liturgy in a ‘holy way’. Learning how to do this using the various forms of electronic media alone will be entirely new to most of us.

Part of this learning means being aware of how we might physically differentiate in our home the way in which we watch and participate in a live-streamed liturgy. This simple action, changing how we watch, can help us to make our spiritual participation more fruitful.

In the room where we will watch the liturgy, we must try to turn off and to remove anything that is likely to distract us. We should as far as possible use the same bodily postures that we would adopt as if we were in the church itself; this will give us a sense of being united with the sacred actions that are taking place in the church.

For example, if possible we should stand at the opening to make the sign of the cross and for the penitential rite; join in by making all the responses; sit down for the readings and stand for the Holy Gospel (and make the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and over our heart); kneel or bow our heads for the Eucharistic Prayer and for the moment when we make a Spiritual Communion; and stand for the final prayer and the blessing.

We might also, provided we take care and it is safe to do so, light a candle for the duration of the celebration. The lighted candle, like those on the altar in the church, symbolizes that Christ is “a light to enlighten the nations”, and that His brightness shines out in the Church and throughout the whole human family.

Whether we are taking part in a liturgy online or in person in a Church, our “fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” requires us to foster both an internal and external participation. Our participation is not really about us ‘doing things’ in the liturgy but means that we need to engage both our minds and hearts in the celebration. We are body and spirit; the expression of our love for God therefore will always be manifest in our worship of Him, both in our words and our actions.

We should try to remember too, that often there can be many others who are also participating in the same liturgy that we are watching; sometimes hundreds and even thousands! It is not just a case of our watching the priest or sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy remotely in the isolation of our home: we are joining other Catholics, sometimes from other countries around the world, to offer a period of time in prayer, worship and thanksgiving to God who is our loving and merciful Father.

Praying with the Word of God

For those who do not have access to the internet and online media, one of the ways we can unite our prayer with the celebration of the Mass and the liturgies of Holy Week is through the use of Sunday and Weekday Missals to read the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures as given in the Church’s lectionary and to make an act of Spiritual Communion.

Although the offering of these prayers may be separated by physical space from where the sacred liturgy is being celebrated in a church, eternity breaks through into human life whenever Christians are united in prayer, especially when this prayer is offered at the same time and when they unite their intention to that of the sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy.

Our constant desire for the Lord

Deep in our hearts we know, though, that neither watching and participating in a live-streamed liturgical celebration nor uniting ourselves in prayer with that liturgy, can ever replace or be a substitute for that ‘fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations’ which our Holy Mother the Church calls us to strive for when we are personally present at the sacred liturgy celebrated within a church.

As members of the clergy and faithful, may our constant desire to be close to and receive the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to experience His presence in the community of the faithful gathered visibly and physically as one, burn within our hearts each day until together we can return to our churches to assemble again as the Church.

Until that time, let us do all we can to remain united in faith, hope and love. Let us pray throughout this time of tribulation that God our Father will drive all pestilence from our world, relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into His peace those who have died and grant that we may all find comfort in His merciful love.

Full Closure of Catholic Churches

Following the Prime Minister’s historic announcement last night (23 March) strengthening restrictions in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19, Catholic Churches are closed to the public at this time.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols stresses that we must all play our part to safeguard the NHS and to save ‘precious lives’.

“We’re going to play our full part in it. That was the call of St. Paul that we ought to be good citizens and today we ought to be good citizens playing our part in the protection of the vulnerable, in our support for the NHS and in the preserving of human life, which is so precious to God in the face of this virus.”



Mental health and your spiritual life

From the Bishops of England & Wales

A healthy and nourished spiritual life is central to mental health and well being. For Catholics, attending Mass on Sundays and during the week is a source of mental and spiritual strength, as well as a social and community activity. This section will briefly explore some ways in which we can keep up a healthy spiritual life during times of social distancing and isolation.

Catholic churches in England and Wales are now closed until further notice. This will be a cause of distress and disruption to Catholics, but we are lucky to live in a time when technology can be a great help for the development of our spiritual lives.

The Catholic Truth Society has put together a helpful list of suggestions for several ways in which you can nourish your mental health and spiritual life during this time. You can find the full list and more information here, but here are a few key points.

Make a Spiritual Communion: Spiritual Communion is the heartfelt desire to receive Our Lord, even when we are unable because of the distance or for some other reason.

Watch Mass: Many dioceses are providing information about livestreamed Masses in parishes.

Read the Mass readings of the day: When you can’t attend Mass, you can follow the prayers and readings of the Mass at home.

Meditate on the Mass readings: Spend time meditating on the Mass readings and discerning what God might be telling you through them, using Lectio Divina, an ancient method of prayer. There is a guide for how to do this on

Watch a video of a priest preaching on the day’s Gospel: New ministries are coming to light during this uncertain time, and one of those is Lent in Isolation, where you can listen to the day’s Mass readings and hear a priest give a homily.

Join an online community praying together daily: It is more important than ever to join together in prayer and utilise technology to form communities so that no one is isolated. The CTS will be posting prayers every day on Hozana.

As Catholics, we know the importance of going to Sunday Mass which is why the Church tells us that not going is a grave sin. However, this does not include those who are physically unable to get to Mass through no fault of their own. This means if you are unwell, in self-isolation, or for some other reason you cannot get to Mass, you are not committing a sin because in those instances you are not required to attend Mass.

Coping with OCD during Coronavirus

Coronavirus will present a unique challenge to those who live with OCD, especially in the form of scrupulosity (a form of OCD involving religious or moral obsessions). Indeed, the charity OCD Action has reported an increase in support requests from people whose fears have become focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

For people with OCD and some types of anxiety, being constantly told to wash your hands can be especially difficult to hear. It could also be difficult to identify which behaviours are ‘acceptable’ and recommended, and which are driven by the OCD and anxiety. OCD Action has published some helpful guidelines about how to manage your OCD during this time. The full list and more information can be found here

Scrupulosity is something which Catholic living with OCD might struggle with during the coronavirus pandemic. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine. In particular, not being able to attend Mass might be a cause of concern and worry for Catholics with OCD. As we stated earlier, it is important to remember that you are not committing a sin by not attending Mass during the pandemic. There are many ways in which you can maintain a healthy spiritual life, listed above.

For more information on scrupulosity and how it may be treated, please see this factsheet from the International OCD Foundation Reading this alongside OCD Action’s guidelines on Coronavirus might be helpful if you are a Catholic struggling with your OCD during this time.

News and Social Media

At times like this it is of course important to keep up to date with health information and advice; however, rolling news is not always helpful, and can contribute to mental ill health, including feelings of anxiety and depression. Here are some pointers for how to look after your mental health while keeping up to date with the news:

Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news;

Stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites, and updates from the World Health Organisation (WHO);

Take some time away from news websites and social media if you are feeling anxious;

Mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute accounts

Mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook and other social media posts and feeds if you find them overwhelming;

Talk to someone if you feel that you can’t manage your anxiety alone. Support helplines are listed below.


An extensive list of mental health support and helplines can be found on the Helplines page of the Catholic Mental Health Project website.


Anxiety UK              Phone: 08444 775 774

OCD Action              Phone: 0845 390 6232


Skype: 0303 040 1112.

OCD Action recommends that if you are currently in therapy for OCD, try contacting your therapist or service provider and ask if they offer skype/phone sessions instead of face-to-face appointments.



Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health (BBC)


Catholic Truth Society: Weekly Blog

Hozana: Social Prayer Platform

Ignatian Spirituality

The International OCD Foundation

Lent in Isolation

OCD Action and Coronavirus



Liturgical Advice for the Bishops of England and Wales

in the light of the COVID-19 Pandemic 18th March 2020

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, having consulted the Ordinaries of the Dioceses, has agreed that the cessation of public liturgies should begin from Friday evening 20th March 2020. Because of the situation the Church finds herself in, the obligation for the faithful to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday or Holy day of Obligation is removed, until further notice.


Celebrations of Holy Mass

Priests who hold parochial office should continue to celebrate Mass in a church within their parish without the faithful on a daily basis. Other priests (i.e. retired from office or entrusted with a non-parochial ministry) may celebrate Mass without the faithful in a church, chapel or their private home. Deacons should not participate in these celebrations.

Wherever possible, during this period, churches will remain open, especially on Sundays, for individual private prayer, without any organised services, and offering prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.



Baptisms should be deferred


Sacrament of Reconciliation

Confession may be offered on request as long as hygiene and social distancing requirements are observed (eg a physical barrier between the penitent and the priest such as a grille and cloth).


First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion

These celebrations should be postponed until a time that allows for families and friends to gather safely within our churches.



The celebrations of Confirmation should be deferred until such time that the public health advice is that congregations can resume public worship.



If possible, the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony should be deferred until such time that people can gather in numbers safely. However, if this is not possible and only in the most pressing of circumstances, then those present for the marriage should be restricted to the celebrant, bride and groom and immediate family, and if necessary, the legal Registrar.



There must be great pastoral sensitivity to this issue. The funeral service should take place at the graveside or at a crematorium, subject to the conditions laid down by the cemetery or crematorium authorities. Arrangements should be made for a Mass to be celebrated in

memoriam when congregations are allowed to gather.


Anointing of the Sick

No pastoral visits should be made to people who are self-isolating until the isolation period ends. However, do offer phone support. When anointing the sick, the Oil of the Sick can be applied using a cotton bud which can be burned afterwards (one end for the head and the other for the hands) and the priest extend his hands over the sick person for laying on of hands, without physical contact. This has been confirmed as a valid mode of celebrating the sacraments which involve “laying on of hands.” Visits to people in care homes or hospitals should follow advice from the staff on infection control