Latest guidance regarding Covid-19 As of 6 May 2022 Returning to Mass at Pentecost Spring Plenary 2022 Resolution An invitation from the Bishops of England and Wales This is the bread come down from heaven (John 6:58) A beautiful hallmark of the Catholic faith is the profound desire to participate in the Holy Mass and share in the Eucharist. We do so with deep gratitude and joy. The Eucharist gives the Church her identity – “The Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist.” It enables us to worship Almighty God, to support each other on our journey of faith, and to be a visible sign of faith in the world. This hallmark is supported and strengthened by the precept that our fundamental Christian duty is to worship God by participating in the celebration of Mass. Attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is the greatest of all privileges, sometimes referred to as “the Sunday Obligation.” Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, until the present time, we have shared with you our judgment that the situation of the last two years has meant that the Sunday Obligation has been impeded and has needed to be fulfilled in other ways. We thank God that this situation has now changed. The pressing challenges of the pandemic have lessened significantly. Most people have resumed the wide range of normal activities, no longer restricted by the previous Covid measures. We therefore believe that the reasons which have prevented Catholics from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation no longer apply. We understand there will still be some members of our congregations who, for reasons of health, do not feel safe enough to return to Mass. It has always been the understanding of the Church that when the freedom of any Catholic to attend Mass in person is impeded for a serious reason, because of situations such as ill health, care for the sick or legitimate fear, this is not a breach of the Sunday Obligation. Our Catholic people and parishes have benefitted during these difficult times from the online streaming of Mass and other services. “Virtual viewing” of Mass online does not fulfil the Sunday Obligation. It may, however, be a source of continual spiritual comfort to those who cannot attend Mass in person, for example those who are elderly and sick, for whom the obligation does not apply. In this context, we recognise gratefully the ministry of those who administer Holy Communion to the elderly, sick and housebound. We are grateful to our clergy, religious and lay faithful who have served our parishes, schools and communities with dedication and distinction throughout this pandemic. Now we look forward with renewed faith and confidence. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Jesus entrusted to us the precious gift of Himself. With humility, we glory in being a Eucharistic people for whom attendance at Mass is essential. Looking forward to the forthcoming feast of Pentecost, we now invite all Catholics who have not yet done so to return to attending Mass in person. As the Church needs the witness of the presence of each person, so too each believer needs to journey in faith and worship with their fellow disciples. Nourished by our encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, fed with His Word and His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, and supported by the presence of each other, we receive strength week by week, to serve the Lord and glorify Him with our lives. Approved by the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ ConferenceFriday 6 May 2022 As of 27 January 2022 Government Guidance The government has updated its guidance for the safe use of places of worship. As of 27 January 2022, Plan B measures will be lifted in England. The government guidance has a ‘What has changed?’ grey box before the summary section highlighting the changes. Bishops’ Conference Guidance DOWNLOAD Covid-19 Guidance for Churches – January 2022 Introduction Following the announcement by HM Government, on 19 January 2022, that the measures put in place to mitigate against Covid virus transmission as ‘Plan B’ will be lifted in full on 27 January 2022, 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 28 January 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 Catholic 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, 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. Conclusion 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 ThomasGeneral Secretary, CBCEW Please DO NOT attend church if you, or someone in your household, has: A high temperature or new, continuous cough or loss, or change, to your sense of taste or smell. You must stay at home.