DISPENSATION FROM EASTER DUTIES: STATEMENT FROM BISHOPS OF ENGLAND & WALES
In their letter of 18th March 2020, the President and Vice President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said: “in these emergency circumstances, and for as long as they last, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. This is, without doubt, the teaching of the Church (CCC n. 2181). This pandemic is the ‘serious reason’ why this obligation does not apply at this time.” Many of the faithful will be aware of their Easter Duties; that is to receive Holy Communion during the Easter Season and by custom, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation beforehand. The Code of Canon Law says “each of the faithful is obliged to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. The precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled by a just cause at another time during the year” (CIC 920). The requirement for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes from the need to be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion (CIC 916). As it is not possible for the faithful to receive Holy Communion at this time and into the future, the Bishops of England and Wales have dispensed the Easter Duties for the year 2020. The Bishops ask that all should make a Perfect Act of Contrition at this time. Perfect contrition (or Contrition of Charity) is true and real sorrow for our sins which is created when we realise the immense love of God for each one of us. We express this contrition when we realise how we offend God by our sinful words, deeds and omissions in contrast to the immeasurable love and mercy that He continuously shows us. This requires us to be contrite of heart for what we have done, know and be overwhelmed by the love and mercy of God for his children, and to approach this grace with humility and resolution not to sin again. An of Contrition we might recommend:
My God, I am sorry for sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy on me.
Letter from Bishop Mark 9/3/20
Dear Fathers and Deacons,
CORONAVIRUS – STAGE TWO OF THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE BEGINNING TODAY 9th March 2020
As we face the spread of the Coronavirus in all parts of the country I received from the Bishops Conference of England and Wales today the recommendation that all parishes and communities now move to STAGE TWO OF THE PUBLISHED ADVICE.
In summary the recommendations drawn up as guidance by Professor Jim McManus in co-ordination with officials from Public Health England are:
- To suspend distribution of the Holy Communion under both kinds and recommend the host be received in the hand only
- Exercise the greatest care when giving Holy Communion in the hand to ensure you do not touch the hands of the recipient – we must ensure the washing and sanitising of our hands
- Suspend the physical sign of peace
- Remove holy water from all stoups
- Cease the veneration of relics by physical contact and the public veneration of the Cross on Good Friday should not be undertaken by kissing or any physical contact
- Advise the most vulnerable to refrain from large parish gatherings
- Cease to use collection plates which are passed from hand to hand
- Cease to use hymn books and hand missals
- Ask everyone attending Mass to sanitise their hands as they come into church using sanitized gel dispensers where possible
- Ensure good hygiene at Mass and parish gatherings – display the public information poster
- Ensure the very regular cleaning of all surfaces which people touch regularly (ideally clean door hands before and after every Mass)
- Ensure that any extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion before and after assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion should wash their hands before proceeding to the sanctuary or discreetly use good quality hand gel
- When visiting parishioners wash your hands before giving the Sacraments. Offer phone support to parishioners who are self-isolating and it is recommended that we do not make pastoral visits until the period of self-isolating ends.
- Visits to Care Homes or Hospitals should be undertaken following the advice from the staff on infection control
- Suspend catering at parish gatherings (coffee, tea etc) where multiple people may touch mugs, utensils, biscuits etc.
I once again attach the guidance in full we received in the document of 27th February. I realise this prudential advice drawn up for us involves much work in the coming week and pastoral sensitivity in the way we introduce these measures. I hope we can seek to address anxiety amongst the faithful and the emerging health threat in a calm and clear way. I will be preparing a Pastoral Letter on the Church’s response to be read at all Masses this coming Sunday, 3rd Sunday of Lent and will meet with the Council of Priests tomorrow to hear reports from around the Diocese.
In the meantime with remembrance in my prayer and every good wish,
Bishop of Shrewsbury