NATIONAL & DIOCESAN
Removal of COVID Restrictions on 27 January.
Summary Recommendations from Bishop Alan Hopes.
Please find attached the latest guidance with regard to the celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments from the Bishops’ Conference. They are in line with the latest instructions from HM Government.
You will note that permission is now given for:
- Holy water stoups may be re-filled and should be cleaned and changed at least once a week. The blessing and addition of salt to the blessed water would help to keep it fresh.
- Singing may be resumed but the people should wear masks if possible.
- Masks should continue to be worn inside the church.
- Social distancing in the church is now at an end but people should be sensitive to the needs and fears of others.
- The prayers of the Faithful may be resumed.
- The Sign of Peace may now take place but in a measured and safe way.
- Holy Communion will continue to be administered under one kind only – the Sacred Host.
- The usual method of distribution for Holy Communion may now be resumed – i.e. during the Mass.
I hope this is helpful. We still need to be careful but there is a slow return to normality in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy after these very difficult two years.
With gratitude, prayers and good wishes,
+Alan; The Rt Rev Alan S Hopes; Bishop of East Anglia
28 January 2022
CBCEW Guidance; Removal of Restrictions; Cancellation of Plan B
Updated guidance has been offered to the dioceses of England and Wales by Rev Canon Christopher Thomas, General Secretary, CBCEW, following the lifting of ‘Plan B’ restrictions by the Government from today.
Following the announcement by HM Government on 19 January 19 that the measures put in place to mitigate against Covid virus transmission as ‘Plan B’ will be lifted in full on January 27, 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 January 28, 2022.
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.
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, washing 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.
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 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.
16 July 2021
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
Statement from the Catholic Bishops of England
“Sunday- It Is Our Day “
On 19th 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.
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.
Ref 1 St Jerome, In Die Dominica Paschae II
“Live-Streamed” Masses in East Anglia
An updated schedule of Masses that can be watched live on your computer has been published by the Diocese.
Dispensation from Easter Duties & Obligations
The Bishops of England and Wales have dispensed the Easter duties (reception of Holy Communion and celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation).
If you are currently unable to attend Mass or receive Communion, the faithful are encouraged to join in prayer with their priests who continue to offer the sacrifice of the Mass..
The use of the Spiritual Communion Prayer –posted here on the website – unites us in intention with the priest celebrating the Mass, as well as with many others who will be offering similar prayers.
Act of Perfect Contrition
The Bishops have asked that all should make a Perfect Act of Contrition at this time – expressing true and real sorrow for sins, when we realise the immense love of God for us.
Contrition is expressed when we realise how we offended God by sinful words, deeds and omissions in contrast to his immeasurable love and mercy towards us.
The text of the recommended Act of Perfect Contrition is available by clicking here.
When Mass cannot be Attended
A leaflet has been produced to help us join in the celebration of Mass – even if we cannot be physically present.
It can be accessed from this link:- https://saintbenetsbeccles.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/when-mass-cannot-be-celebrated-publicly.pdf
Note that this document is written to be printed double-sided and folded to become a 4-page, A5 booklet – like our weekly missalettes.