As you know the Government has extended the requirement to wear face coverings in church for at least another couple of weeks. They still expect that some time early in April the requirement will become a recommendation. Until that is confirmed, we are all still required to wear face coverings unless exempt.
The Government have now revoked the other measures which were still applicable in churches and halls. This means that we can now fully undertake all the activities that previously occurred in parishes, but we need to do so mindful of the need to help people feel safe and to let those with higher risks feel comfortable in our parishes.
This is not just going back to the way things were done before, but finding the ways to do them safely in our new circumstances. Everything can be done that we would have done before, just not always in the same ways. There are no special legal requirements that we need to comply with (except masks) but we always have the legal, and moral, duty to run our parish activities in a healthy and safe way.
The Bishops have asked us to keep observing the following principles in all that we do:
- Respect the space of fellow parishioners
- Keep sanitising hands on entering church and before distributing Holy Communion
- Continue to ensure good ventilation.
- We no longer have to do any special cleaning regime – we can return to pre-pandemic cleaning routines.
- The sign of peace may now be done by shaking hands, but with the understanding that some may not want to do so at this time and that no-one should feel pressured to do so. Some parishes may prefer to retain bowing or keep omitting the sign of peace. (In St Andrew’s, we’ll continue the practice of bowing until further notice).
- Feet can be washed on Holy Thursday.
- The advice is that Confessionals still not be used if they do not have good ventilation.
The Bishops would like to “thank all parishes, priests, deacons and volunteers for all their efforts during the past 2 years and encourage all Catholics to return with confidence to our celebration of Holy Mass and the Sacraments, the source and summit of our faith.”