Safety measures and liturgical guidelines which will inform the reopening of churches have been finalised by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.
Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, said that the bishops’ proposed infection controls for churches had been forwarded to the Scottish Government with a view to submitting the final guidelines in the coming week.
Commenting on the progress the Bishops’ Conference had made, Bishop Gilbert said: “A great deal of work has been done to provide guidance and support to clergy as they prepare for the phased reopening of our parishes. The guidelines have been prepared to reflect advice given in the Scottish Government’s Route Map on the gradual removal of restrictions.”
The Scottish Government published its “Route Map” on May 21, where it outlined some details about the phased reopening of churches. In phase two, the government will permit places of worship to “open for private prayer with physical distancing and hygiene safeguards,” with some small-scale ceremonies, including weddings, also permitted. In phase three, the government will allow churches to “open to extended groups subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards,” and will also then relax restrictions on funerals and weddings. The dates for these phases are yet to be confirmed, but Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow previously suggested that the government may permit phase two reopenings in mid-June and phase three measures in July.
Bishop Gilbert said that the Scottish bishops’ own complementary guidelines will note that “the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains dispensed until further notice and everyone is asked to consider carefully whether or not they should return in the early phases.” He explained that this was because the Church had a “duty of care to elderly clergy and lay people, which together with social distancing reductions in capacity will mean that the availability of Mass may reduce in some areas.”
He concluded: “We are asked, in the words of Pope Francis to show ‘wisdom, foresight, and common commitment, so that all the efforts and sacrifices made so far will not be in vain’. In the hope that this pandemic will ‘stimulate our creativity, our ingenuity, and our ability to respond’, in a way that helps us ‘on the path of praise of the Lord and service to our brothers and sisters’.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.