Dear Reverend Fathers, Deacons, Religious Sisters and Brothers, and Seminarians
Please find attached a letter from the Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales regarding the latest guidance for Churches regarding the government’s updated COVID-19 measures following the ending of Plan B in England on Thursday 27th January. Some of the key points to note are:
In the general preparation of church for prayer and the sacred liturgy (and for the use of church halls):
- 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.
- It is still good practice to facilitate hand sanitisation on entry and exit of churches (and halls).
- There is no need for formal social distancing in church buildings, although those present should be sensitive to the needs of others around them.
- Face coverings are no longer required by law in any setting. However, the Government guidance states that “Public Health Guidance will remain in place, suggesting individuals should continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.” Therefore, those attending an act of worship may continue to wear a face covering (both nose and mouth) whilst in the church building, until the time people feel comfortable and confident not to wear them.
- Good ventilation within the churches (and church halls) remains important.
- The use of hymn books, missals and other worship aids can be resumed with immediate effect.
- Holy water stoups in churches 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.
There should be a return to the normal mode of celebrating Mass respecting the integrity of the Rite. This includes:
- There is no need for readers (or other ministers) to sanitise their hands before reading or performing other ministries in the church.
- 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
- Holy Communion should be distributed to the faithful immediately after the celebrant/clergy have received Holy Communion and no longer deferred until after the Blessing and dismissal. However, all ministers of Holy Communion (clergy and lay people) should still sanitise their hands for the distribution of Holy Communion.
- Holy Communion should be distributed with the faithful approaching the minister in an orderly procession and no longer by the minister(s) going to the congregation and moving between the communicants.
- 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.
With every blessing, I remain
Yours in the Lord