Livestreamed Masses have allowed some parishes to reach more daily parishioners than ever, according to the Bishop of Salford.
Speaking at an online press conference earlier this week, Bishop John Arnold said that some parishes were reaching “record numbers” of people. Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said that he knew of 30 local parishes which had been streaming Mass online.
Archbishop Longley and Bishop Arnold joined Bishop Richard Moth to discuss plans to livestream services from their cathedrals during the Easter Triduum.
The three bishops each said how “strange” it would be to celebrate the Easter liturgy without a congregation present, but cited the recent success of their local churches to reach out to parishioners through the internet, after government measures had forced church buildings to close and had prohibited all non-essential travel.
The bishops added, though, how “very difficult” they themselves had found the current period of isolation. Bishop Moth of Arundel and Brighton said: “I live alone and a half an hour’s drive from my cathedral, so it’s a bit monastic up here at the house”. Bishop John Arnold, who is also living alone during the lockdown, said how frustrated he was that “I know people who are doing very active things on the front line out there and I’m not out there with them.”
The bishops thanked Catholic institutions still fully operating amidst the pandemic. Bishop Arnold praised Catholic charities for their help during the crisis, after reporting that Caritas were still providing “all essential services” in his diocese of Salford, and Archbishop Longley and Bishop Moth both communicated their gratitude for the work of Catholic schools, which have remained open to vulnerable pupils and the children of “key workers”.
The bishops described some of the new challenges the Church faces during the pandemic. Bishop Arnold talked about the particular problems facing hospital chaplains: “the question of the protective clothing, or the lack of it”, as well as the struggle to train new chaplains, since “the most established chaplains are over 70, so they’ve had to withdraw”.
Archbishop Bernard Longley discussed the current “in extremis” restrictions on the sacraments, which he said were severe but necessary measures to avoid practices that would “jeopardise the health of anyone else.” And Church finances were mentioned, with the bishops reporting that some diocesan staff had been furloughed and that church contributions had fallen, but Archbishop Longley insisted “we do not want to particularly emphasise that because of the hardships people are experiencing.”
Bishop Moth, the bishops’ representative on prisons, said that the “devastating” impact of Covid-19 had already forced a rethink of prison overcrowding. He encouraged the government to continue to consider “releasing those who are not going to be a threat to the local community”. And the bishops looked ahead to the “new normal” awaiting us when the pandemic subsides, which Bishop Arnold hopes will reflect a renewed understanding “that our actions together affect our brothers and sisters around the world and that we have to care for our common home.”
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