In a statement the Bishops’ Conference said
“In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, so many aspects of our lives must change. This includes the ways in which we publicly express our faith. It is very clear that, following official advice and in order to keep each other safe, save lives and support the NHS, at this time we must not gather for public acts of worship in our churches. This will begin from Friday evening, 20th March 2020, until further notice.
Our churches will remain open. They are not closing. They will be a focal point of prayer, where you will find solace and strength. In visiting our churches at this time, we will observe with great care the practices of hygiene and the guidance on social distancing.
However, the celebration of Mass, Sunday by Sunday and day by day, will take place without a public congregation.
Knowing that the Mass is being celebrated; joining in spiritually in that celebration; watching the live-streaming of the Mass; following its prayers at home; making an act of spiritual communion: this is how we share in the Sacrifice of Christ in these days. These are the ways in which we will sanctify Sunday, and indeed every day.
We want everyone to understand that in these emergency circumstances, and for as long as they last, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. This is, without doubt, the teaching of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181). This pandemic is the ‘serious reason’ why this obligation does not apply at this time.”
Further details about the pathway of prayer and sacramental life we are now to take can be found on the Bishops’ Conference website here. Details of online Mass services can be found below.
With a number of people within the family of the Diocese compelled to self-isolate many will value the possibility of watching a live streamed celebration of Mass. The following churches in our Diocese will stream Masses online, allowing our many congregations to continue participating in the spiritual life of the Church during this time:
St Mary of the Angels, Worthing – you can access an online Mass responses sheet here.
St Dunstan’s, Woking
Sacred Heart, Hove
Sacred Heart, Caterham – Mass (live and recorded), Adoration and the Rosary.
St Paul’s, Haywards Heath will be streaming via Facebook, their page can be accessed here.
Additional services will also be available further afield:
The Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham offers a 12 noon online Pilgrim Mass each day, a selection of previously recorded services and a prayer request facility.
Church Service TV provides live streaming and recordings from churches around the country.
Pope Francis dedicated a prayer for the Covid-19/Coronavirus to Our Lady last week. Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, said that the Pope wanted to entrust “the entire world to the protection of the Mother of God, as a sign of salvation and hope” during the ongoing coronavirus emergency:
O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain,
with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
There will be people living within our many parishes who are anxious or alone and would welcome a friendly phone call or home cooked meal, delivered at a safe distance, to their door, help with shopping or posting mail, collecting urgent supplies.
We have a form offering all of these things which can be posted through neighbour’s letter boxes.
If you are able please consider, printed and completing a form for your neighbours.
Click the image to open a pdf version to print at home.
There are a wide range of prayers and reflections available online. The selection below includes a number of helpful resources:
Prayer in a Time of Sickness from the Liturgy Office
A Litany to Pray Frequently in a Time of Health Pandemic
A compilation of online resources from The Tablet
A list of spiritual resources from The Catholic Herald.
Material from the God Who Speaks Bishop’s Conference initiative.
Narratives from St John’s Gospel with Fr Denis McBride C.Ss.R (a series of special videos produced in association with the Diocese of Clifton to equip and encourage those in their diocese during this Holy period of prayer and devotion).
Priests (parish priest and assistant 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.
The continuing celebration of Mass ensures that the faithful can join in spiritual communion with the priests of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (1364): As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out. Daily liturgical resources for those at home, including those for making a “Spiritual Communion” with the priest, will be available on the CBCEW website.
Information about the live-streaming of the celebration of Mass will be made widely available in our dioceses so that the faithful can participate in the prayers of the priest at Mass at home. A fine example of this is from The National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham will continue its full liturgical programme and this will be available to all via the Internet(www.walsingham.org.uk)
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 until such time that the public health advice is that congregations can gather safely. In case of necessity, baptisms should be celebrated with all the hygiene precautions that have been laid down by the Church in its COVID-19 advice.
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). The use of Rite II and Rite III of the Rite of Penance is not permitted as this, by necessity, requires the gathering of people in our churches.
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.
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.
Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil
This will be dependent on the forthcoming decisions of the Bishops for the Holy Week ceremonies.
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.
The latest Bishops’ Conference guidance can be accessed here. If you have any queries or concerns, please contact the Diocesan Health and Safety Team; E: firstname.lastname@example.org