Bishops' Conference of England and Wales Guidance

Corona Virus Update: 4 July 2020

 

THE ARCHBISHOPS OF ENGLAND ADDRESS US

A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops of the Catholic Church in England

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Tuesday we heard the announcement that, from the 4th July this year, places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services. We welcome this news with great joy. Since the lockdown began, members of all faiths have faced restrictions on how they have been able to celebrate important religious festivals. Our own experience of Easter was unlike any other we have known. Now, in our churches, and with our people, we can look forward again to celebrating the central mysteries of our faith in the Holy Eucharist.

The recent reopening of our churches for individual private prayer was an important milestone on our journey towards resuming communal worship. Our churches that have opened have put in place all the measures needed to ensure the risks of virus transmission are minimised. This includes effective hand sanitisation, social distancing, and cleaning. We remain committed to making sure these systems of hygiene and infection control meet Government and public health standards. We want to thank everyone within the Catholic community for sustaining the life of faith in such creative ways, not least in the family home. We thank our priests for celebrating Mass faithfully for their people, and for the innovative ways in which they have enabled participation through live-streaming and other means. We are grateful for the pastoral care shown by our clergy to those for whom this time of lockdown has been especially difficult, and, in particular, towards those who have been bereaved. We recognise too the chaplaincy services that have played a vital role in supporting those most in need. Gaining from the experience of all that we have been through, and bringing those lessons into the future, we must now look forward.

With the easing of restrictions on worship with congregations, we tread carefully along the path that lies ahead. Our lives have been changed by the experience of the pandemic and it is clear that we cannot simply return to how things were before lockdown. We remain centred on the Lord Jesus and His command at the Last Supper to “do this in memory of me.” We must now rebuild what it means to be Eucharistic communities, holding fast to all that we hold dear, while at the same time exploring creative ways to meet changed circumstances. It is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. A significant number of churches may remain closed as they are unable to meet the requirements for opening for individual prayer. Fulfilling these requirements is a precondition for any church opening after the 4thJuly for the celebration of Mass with a congregation.

Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. This will determined locally in accordance with social distancing requirements. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices.

This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal.’ We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass. Our priests may need to consider whether it is possible to celebrate additional Masses at the weekends. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday. This will ease the pressure of numbers for Sunday celebrations and allow a gradual return to the Eucharist for more people. Moving forward, there will still be many people who cannot attend Mass in person. We therefore ask parishes, wherever possible, to continue live-streaming Sunday Mass, both for those who remain shielding and vulnerable, and also for those unable to leave home because of advanced age or illness.

When we return to Mass there will be some differences in how the celebration takes place. For the time being, there will be no congregational singing and Mass will be shorter than usual. None of this detracts from the centrality of our encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. We ask every one to respect and follow the guidance that will be issued and the instructions in each church. “As I have loved you,” said the Lord Jesus, “so you must love each other.” (John 13:34).

The lockdown has brought forth remarkable acts of charity, of loving kindness, from Catholics across our communities as they have cared for the needy and vulnerable. We have seen love in action through charitable works, and through the service of many front-line key workers who are members of our Church. Now we can begin to return to the source of that charity, Christ himself, present for us sacramentally, body, blood, soul and divinity, in Holy Communion. As we prepare to gather again to worship, let us, respectful of each other, come together in thanksgiving to God for the immense gift of the Holy Eucharist.

Yours devotedly in Christ.

            + Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

            + Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool

            + Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

            + John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark

 



 

Bishops' Conference of England and Wales Guidance

Corona Virus Update: 10 July 2020

 

On Friday 24 and Saturday 25 July this week we will open the churches for a couple of hours
from 10am until 12pm and continue that process until we meet for Mass

Please read the contents below to familiarise yourself with our procedures

 

Requirements for Those Attending Church
1. All entering the church will be recommended to use a face covering at all times to minimise the risk of contagion to all present. (See "2: Principles, item iv" Bishops' Guidance below)
2. Alcohol-based hand gel will be available and must be used on entry and departure from the church.
3. Any handkerchiefs or tissues shall be taken off the premises.
4. Personal possessions should be kept to a minimum and should be taken away on leaving the church.
5. Any items found during cleaning shall be disposed of and shall not be deposited in any lost property.
6. While children are unlikely to become very ill, they are capable of both being infected by the virus and of spreading it. Parents or guardians bringing children into a church should not be discouraged from doing so, but it will be important for parents to manage their children appropriately, particularly ensuring they touch as few surfaces as possible for their own safety.
7. It remains a person’s own choice to come to church to pray. Churches may wish to consider setting aside a section only for people who are more vulnerable to serious disease if infected, and clearly signposted as such, or otherwise having a designated time only for people who are more vulnerable and wish to pray privately.

If the church is full, as it will only accommodate limited numbers because of the distance law, please be prepared to stand outside or sit in your car until a space arises.

 

Important things you must know
There will be our appointed Marshals at both churches to guide anyone to seats and to remind them that once they have entered through the Entrance they must then leave by the exit.
Once your space has been vacated, a marshal will again wipe the seat with cleanser.
As the government insist, we must remain 2 meters apart while in church and you will be guided to appropriate spaces.

Our churches have been thoroughly cleaned or rather ‘deep cleaned’ so that any spot or stain of the Covid 19 virus has been washed away. The virus itself is not a lingering infection on wood, benches, floors etc. For extra safety we have kept the toilets ‘out of bounds’;  there are no holy water stoops;  and the entrance and exit doors will remain open.

Rev. Fr. Paul Edwards
Parish Priest

 



 

Bishops' Conference of England and Wales Guidance

Corona Virus Update: 10 June 2020

 

 

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has issued its guidance for re-opening Catholic churches for individual, private prayer.

The guidance is available at the Archdiocese of Birmingham website but has been downloaded and published here for reference.

 

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
GUIDANCE ON RE-OPENING CATHOLIC CHURCHES FOR INDIVIDUAL, PRIVATE PRAYER

(Date of Publication:  Wednesday 10 June 2020)

 

 

Catholic churches that can safely do so are permitted to re-open for individual, private prayer from Monday 15 June 2020. Re-opening Catholic Churches must, of course, happen in a safe manner, and it is likely to take place in stages. Each stage will be accompanied by guidance to ensure this can happen safely and effectively.

These guidance notes are intended to assist Parish Priests to be ready to re-open their churches from 15 June 2020. They focus on what is needed to open churches safely (i.e. providing the least possible risk of transmission of the virus) for private prayer as a first step. This guidance has been compiled with detailed public health advice and scrutiny and complies with the Principles established by Government.

 

 

The following text below was downloaded and reproduced here for reference and guidance for parishioners.


1:  Guidance on Re-opening Catholic Churches for Individual Private Prayer

The doors of our churches have been closed since 23rd March 2020, following the clear instruction from the Government. Bishops, priests and people share a deep desire to re-open our churches as soon as the Government allows us to do so. Re-opening must, of course, happen in a safe manner, and it is likely to take place in stages. Each stage will be accompanied by guidance to ensure this can happen safely and effectively.

These guidance notes are intended to assist Parish Priests to be ready to re-open their churches as soon as permission is granted. They focus on what is needed to open churches safely (i.e. providing the least possible risk of transmission of the virus) for private prayer as a first step. This guidance has been compiled with detailed public health advice and scrutiny and complies with the Principles established by Government.

 

2:  Principles

The Principles established by government to enable safe re-opening of churches below have been incorporated into this guidance:

i. Protecting those at higher risk (e.g. the elderly, those extremely vulnerable and shielding or clinically vulnerable and accessing annual flu immunisation);

ii. Enhanced cleaning of premises - more regularly and no sharing of items;

iii. Social Distancing - including when using outdoor spaces;

iv. Face coverings for reassurance;

v. Hygiene (hand-washing) or hand sanitising facilities for all;

vi. Managing children

 

3:  What is “Individual Prayer?”

Individual prayer within a place of worship is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They must be socially distanced from other individuals or households. Collective or communal prayer and regular scheduled services are not permitted at this time. This includes any minister of religion or lay person leading devotions or prayer.

 

4:  First Steps: Preparing for safe re-opening

Even before churches can re-open, there are some important preparations that will need to be made. In order to be ready, Parish Priests need to ensure the fundamentals of infection control are in place (which will protect those who are vulnerable) by doing the following:

1. Assembling a team of stewards to ensure that the guidance in this document can safely be put into effect. The number of volunteers required will vary depending on the size of churches, but priests will not be able to manage the re-opening of churches on their own. It is important that those in the team should not be drawn from those instructed to shield themselves, nor, as a general rule, from groups considered more vulnerable to coronavirus.

2. Securing sufficient supplies of alcohol hand gel, cleaning materials (including gloves for cleaners) and tape to mark appropriate distances on floors and to block off areas of seating. When buying supplies, it is important to ensure that hand gel with anti-viral properties is obtained, this should be at least 65% alcohol: many hand sanitisers are only anti-bacterial and offer no protection against coronavirus. Tape can be purchased online (search for ‘floor marking tape’ on Church Marketplace; Amazon; etc). The Government advises that normal household disinfectant and detergents are suitable for cleaning.

3. Mark distances on the floor and block off pews/chairs to ensure adequate social distancing (2 metres/6 feet between each person) is maintained throughout the church. As an alternative to blocking off rows with tape, seating may be reconfigured if this is possible (e.g. by the removing of chairs or pews). Depending on the size of the church, it may be beneficial to use different areas of the church on different days to facilitate cleaning. The maximum person capacity at any one time under the social distancing regime must be determined and this made clear to those entering the church, preferably by way of clear signage (see 5 below).

4. Removing from the church all printed materials that are not designed for a single use. This would include service books, hymn books, CTS pamphlets etc.

5. Preparing appropriate signage, e.g. asking people to sanitise their hands, on entry and exit, not to touch or physically venerate statues or relics, clear entrance and exit signs, maximum safe capacity etc.

6. Maintaining as much ventilation within the church space as possible; keeping doors open decreases transmission risk through touching but also allows a flow of fresh air into the church space. If the church has windows that can be opened, these should be.

7. Ensure that all taps, toilets and other water storage devices are run well to flush the systems before anyone uses them, especially if the church has not been in use for some time.

 

4:  How is the COVID-19 virus spread?

The Government guidance states that the spread of COVID-19 is most likely to happen when there is close contact (within 2 metres or less) with an infected person. It is likely that the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person. Respiratory secretions (droplets) containing the virus are likely to be the most important means of transmission; these are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

 

5:  Opening and operating safely: hand hygiene, cleaning and social distancing

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales are working with our Public Health advisors, Public Health England and the Government in order to provide clear directives for the opening of our churches safely which minimises the risk of virus transmission. Considering the above understanding of virus transmission, the proposed directives are:

1. At least two stewards must be present in the church throughout the time it is open for prayer; the stewards must ensure that hand sanitisation occurs at entry and exit points, social distancing is maintained by people in the church and if a pre-determined capacity is reached, they prevent others from entering the church. (Through, for example, a “one in, one out” policy.) People with cold or flu-like symptoms should be asked not to enter.

2. Stewards themselves should practice good hand hygiene through either regular hand washing or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser. They should not eat or drink or touch their face unless they have immediately washed their hands beforehand and should maintain social distance within the church. They should ensure any cuts or grazes on their hands are completely covered with waterproof dressings. They should not physically assist people unless absolutely necessary, for example in an emergency for first aid1. In this case there are some basic steps which stewards should be aware of:

a. Be aware of the risks to yourselves and others in helping someone.

b. Make sure you wash your hands and use an alcohol gel, before and after helping someone. Ensure that you do not cough or sneeze over someone when you are helping them.

c. Wear disposable gloves or cover hands when dealing with people and dispose of them securely.

d. Dispose of all waste from first aid safely in tied bags in bins.

e. Do not touch a wound with your bare hand.

f. Do not touch any part of a dressing that will come in contact with a wound.

3. It would be an additional infection control measure if people could enter and leave the church via separate doors. If this is not possible, stewards should do all they can to ensure people keep an appropriate social distance while entering and leaving church (e.g. by having an entrance line and an exit line).

4. Alcohol hand gel should be provided at the doors, with notices asking people to sanitise their hands as they enter and leave the church.

5. Places where people can sit or kneel in prayer should be two metres apart from one another in all directions. Benches should be blocked off, or seats rearranged, to facilitate this social distancing. People who are part of the same household can sit together but those not from the same household should maintain social distancing while in church.

6. The church must be cleaned fully at least once a day, using appropriate cleaning products and paying particular attention to touch points (door handles, collection boxes etc). Areas that are likely to be touched frequently (such as door handles) should be cleaned more often.

a. Cleaning an area with normal household disinfectant or detergent (including on pews) will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

b. Those doing this work must wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. How these are disposed of or cleaned is important.

c. The cleaning method for surfaces and touchpoints should be by using a disposable cloth or disposable paper tissues; first clean hard surfaces with detergent and water or detergent spray; not polish spray on its own. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as bathrooms, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells and door handles. Anti-viral spray cleaner which does not harm wood and other fittings is available from suppliers.

d. Those doing this work must practice good hygiene: wash their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning

7. Toilet facilities in churches should remain closed to prevent any risk of transmission of infection. If facilities for hand washing only can be provided, and these can be cleaned frequently, then these can be opened to allow people to wash their hands but only if liquid soap can be provided and air driers or disposable paper towels are used. Cloth towels should not be used.

8. Only printed materials intended to be taken away from the church by the user can be made available. Hymn books, missals, devotional materials etc which may be re-used should be removed from the church.

9. Physical veneration of relics or objects such as statues, crucifixes and shrines is not permitted. There should be no holy water in church stoups. Care should be exercised when lighting candles on votive stands using existing candles as a source of ignition, not lighters, matches or tapers. For electric candle stands, clean the row of buttons frequently.

 

6:  Face Coverings

Government has advised that cloth face coverings (and not surgical masks) could be worn for reassurance by people in enclosed areas but are not strictly necessary. Churches do not need to supply face coverings. People should not see their voluntary use disrespectful to prayer or the sacred space.

 

7:  Children

While children are unlikely to become very ill, they are capable of both being infected by the virus and of spreading it. Parents or guardians bringing children into a church should not be discouraged from doing so, but it will be important for parents to manage their children appropriately, particularly ensuring they touch as few surfaces as possible for their own safety.

 

8:  Vulnerable People

It remains a person’s own choice to come to church to pray.  Churches may wish to consider setting aside a section only for people who are more vulnerable to serious disease if infected, and clearly signposted as such, or otherwise having a designated time only for people who are more vulnerable and wish to pray privately.

 

9:  Individual prayer only

This advice concerns only the opening of churches for private prayer. Further detailed advice will be issued in due course when public worship is safe to re-commence. This advice cannot be followed for other activities that may take place on parish premises, such as groups that would meet in church halls, because at present these must remain closed. This is because group gatherings at the time of writing are not permitted by law, and social distancing cannot be monitored in an effective way with groups that meet socially or for other activities in our premises.

 

10:  The importance of these measures

These measures may seem burdensome, or even a little daunting. They are however necessary, not least because if any churches are seen to be operating in a way that may increase the spread of the virus, there is a risk that stricter measures such as prohibition or enforced closure notices could be reimposed by local authorities or even national administrations. It is our hope that with priests and their parishioners working effectively together, we will be able to open churches safely for private prayer, as a significant step towards the resumption of the celebration of Mass and the sacraments.


11:  Further Reading

  to see the full government guidance on supporting people in emergency situations.


  to see the full government guidance on cleaning and disinfection.


If it is known that there has been an exposure to the virus, disposable cleaning materials should be double-bagged, then stored for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished. If not disposable, they should be washed at 60 degrees or above before re-use.

 

Rev. Canon Christopher Thomas
1st June 2020



 

The website of the Archdiocese has a large amount of information about Corona Virus Covid-19 and its consequences on our world and our religion, as well as the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales guidance to the re-opening of our churches.  The following blue links will take you to the appropriate sections:

The Archdioces of Birmingham homepage

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales guidance on re-opening Catholic churches