By Vatican News
The Catholic Bishops of Scotland have welcomed a recent announcement by the government permitting the resumption of communal worship in churches beginning on Wednesday.
On 9 July, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the country’s transition to phase three of its plans to relax restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Churches in Scotland had already partially reopened in mid-June for private prayers, as part of the second phase of its relaxation of restrictions. However, communal worship remained banned.
Commenting on the latest move, the President of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said, “over the past month, our parishes have been preparing for the safe resumption of communal prayer and the celebration of Mass, which is at the center of the life of the Church.”
“To have been unable to attend Mass for many months has been a source of real sadness for Scotland's Catholics, and I am sure there will be great joy at the prospect of returning,” he added.
Restrictions still to be observed
While places of worship have permission for communal prayer, there are still restrictions to be followed.
Churches are to observe social distancing norms, and the faithful, except for children under five-years-old, are to wear face masks. The maximum attendance in churches is limited to 50 people, and parishes must record the names and contact information of the faithful who attend. For other community celebrations, such as funerals, weddings and baptisms, the maximum number of attendees has been set at 20 people.
“Thanks to the widespread implementation of the Church’s infection control protocols,” said Bishop Gilbert, “Catholic parishes will begin the resumption of public Masses and other communal activities from 15 July.”
The Bishops expressed their gratitude to “all those who worked tirelessly to prepare parishes for public worship.”
They also recognized the efforts of those who “made their views known to their parliamentary representatives and the government on the subject of communal worship.”
However, the Bishops reminded the faithful that “the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended,” adding that those who choose to observe it should “do so in accordance with the infection control measures in force in each parish, mindful always of the need to protect themselves and others.”