Bishop Mark O’Toole has called on all who can, to “make every effort” to return to church and to share in the “courage” of the English and Welsh martyrs.
The Bishop of Plymouth said that, though the world “continues to battle with this deadly virus”, we must still try to “draw close to the gift of the Mass”.
His plea was made in a pastoral message delivered ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
The men and women canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 had been executed for practicing the Catholic faith after it had been made illegal in the English Reformation.
Citing the last words of St Cuthbert Mayne, who prayed “Into your hands Lord” at his execution, Bishop O’Toole said that Catholics should also entrust themselves to Christ and demonstrate the same “courage and fidelity that St Cuthbert and the martyrs had” during their darkest hour.
He said that people could still return to Mass safely, provided the most vulnerable are shielded and all necessary health and safety requirements are met.
“If we are able and well enough, and do not have to shield, let us make every effort to be physically present once more at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in our churches, on a weekday, if not on a Sunday. We can do so safely, whilst observing all the necessary protocols that need to be in place.”
The bishop’s call to return to Mass comes at a time when new restrictions are starting to be imposed on churches.
The Republic of Ireland re-introduced a ban on public worship on October 5, as part of its wider lockdown measures, and the Welsh Government announced that churches will be closed from Friday, October 23, during its own two-week “firebreak” lockdown.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have both introduced circuit breaker lockdowns without closing churches, though the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that further lockdown restrictions will be to be announced in the coming days.
Meanwhile, in England, no national lockdowns have been introduced and even local Tier 3 restrictions have not led to the closure of places of worship. However, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer last week called on the UK Government to follow the Welsh First Minister’s example in introducing a complete two-week national lockdown, which has also received support from the government’s scientific advisers, the NHS, and the NEU, Britain’s largest teaching union.
FEATURED IMAGE: Photograph of Bishop Mark O’Toole, courtesy of Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
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