On 4 November 2020, Parliament passed into law The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. These are in force from 5 November to 2 December 2020. As well as the Regulations, the Government has updated its Guidance for the safe use of places of worship to reflect current circumstances. The Regulations preclude gatherings for communal worship, including the celebration of Mass, baptisms and most weddings.
Within the Diocese of Northampton, we recognise the great challenge this news will bring many people who rely on the Eucharist for sustenance. Our Bishops encourage us to make the most of those churches which remain open for private prayer.
Here is the statement made by Cardinal Vincent Nicholls and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, President and Vice President of our Catholic Bishops Conference.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
Statement from the President and the Vice-President of the Conference on the National Lockdown Wednesday 4th November 2020
Today, Parliament passed into law the Regulations governing many aspects of activity in the whole of England until 2nd December. These Regulations prohibit the gathering of people for communal worship in churches and other religious buildings.
Churches remain open and in use for activities other than communal worship, including personal prayer and support for those in need. Funeral Masses and funeral services may be held. Please refer to the Regulations (for places of worship see paragraph 18) and associated Guidance.
Despite profound misgivings it is important that we, as responsible citizens, observe these Regulations, which have the force of law: ‘Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity’ (Titus 3:1). We do this in solidarity with so many others on whom are being imposed restrictions which impact severely on their lives and livelihoods.
It is also important to recognise that these Regulations are not an attack on religious belief. However, they do demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the essential contribution made by faith communities to the well-being, resilience and health of our society.
At this difficult moment, we ask that, as a Catholic community, we make full use of our churches as places of individual prayer and sources of solace and help. We must sustain each other in our patterns of prayer, joining a national shared moment of prayer each day at 6pm, and observing the Vigil of Christ the King (21st November) as a day of prayer for the ending of this pandemic. And we encourage you all in your practical service and support of each other and those around you in need.
This pathway of prayer and service is the royal road we are to take as a gracious witness in our society today.
+ Cardinal Vincent Nichols – President
+ Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP – Vice-President