The Church in England and Wales is preparing for the re-opening of churches after the government lifts lockdown restrictions, bishops have said.
In a joint letter to Catholics, five metropolitan archbishops said they are discussing with health authorities how best to re-open church buildings and resume the Church’s sacramental life, although they did not go into specifics as how this would happen.
“None of us knows, as yet, how or when the lockdown will end,” the archbishops said. “There is likely to be a phased return to travelling and gathering. As a church, we are now planning for this time and our discussions with the statutory public health agencies and Government representatives are ongoing.
“Together with Catholics across England and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.”
The archbishops said that while “none of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves”, closing church buildings was necessary because “it is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society.”
“This must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted,” they added.
The letter was signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff and Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark.
The prelates acknowledged that while live-streaming of Mass was playing an important part in maintaining people’s life of faith, there is “no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”
Every bishop and priest recognises the pain of Catholics who do not have access to the sacraments, they added. “This weighs heavily on our hearts.”
“We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Public Masses have been suspended in England and Wales since 21 March.