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CATHOLIC BISHOP'S CONFERENCE FOR ENGLAND AND WALES

Guidance for Churches – December 2021

Following the statement by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 9th December, there has been a Government directive that further restrictions to mitigate against viral transmission, especially in the light of the new Omicron variant, will be imposed.

Summarising the Government directives:

• From Friday 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in most indoor settings.

• From Monday 13 December office workers who can work from home should do so.

• From Wednesday 15 December, certain venues and events will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.

The requirements for NHS Covid passes will not apply to places of worship and the acts of worship associated with them. However, any social gatherings linked to events in churches will need to comply with new requirements but only when 500 or more people are involved.

Face Coverings

HM Government has made the wearing of face covering mandatory in Places of Worship from Friday 10th December 2021 (see here). However, there will be exemptions for those leading worship, public proclamation of scriptural readings or prayers, and those who are unable to wear face coverings and are exempt (the guidance for this can be found on the same page as above).

Singing

HM Government guidance states that “There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.”

The current Church guidance states that congregational singing should take place with face coverings in place and choirs and soloists may sing without such coverings.

As the Church moves towards Christmas celebrations which often involves carol services and other singing events, it is strongly recommended that congregational singing within church buildings continues with the applied face coverings.

Practical Guidance for Churches

With respect to the current situation with the Omicron variant it is important to ensure the following points are followed in our churches:

• That people displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and not travel to church or participate in person.

• That hand sanitiser is available to those attending the Church.

• Face coverings must be worn by those attending public acts of worship unless there is a genuine exemption or the person is leading worship or participating in a role that requires the mask to be removed for a period of time.

• That there is good ventilation and air throughput in the building; in this case, because of climatic conditions, it would be important to remind people to wrap up well in church.

• There is now very strong evidence to support that the main mode of this variant’s viral transmission is through aerosols, and that the risk from surface and touch transmission is very small indeed. As such, the strict regimes of church cleaning that were recommended at the beginning of the opening of churches for public worship are no longer necessary. General church cleaning is sufficient.

• That people who are engaged in a form of pastoral ministry which involves ministry to the housebound, sick and vulnerable, should take regular lateral flow tests to ensure they are safe to do so. These are free from the NHS.

Rev. Canon Christopher Thomas General Secretary, CBCEW

10 December 2021

Update December 2021


COVID-19 VIRUS - OMICRON VARIANT

With respect to the current situation with the Omicron variant it is important to ensure the following points are followed in our churches:

• That people displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and not travel to church or participate in person.

• That hand sanitiser is available to those attending the church.

• From Friday 10th December, it will be compulsory for people to wear a face covering (both nose and mouth) whilst indoors in public venues including places of worship.

• That there is good ventilation and air throughout in the building; in this case, because of climatic conditions, it would be important to remind people to wrap up well in church!

• That a positive message encouraging people to get vaccinated and have the booster jab when able is delivered whenever possible.

• That people who are engaged in a form of pastoral ministry which involves ministry to the housebound, sick and vulnerable, should take regular lateral flow tests to ensure they are safe to do so. These are free from the NHS.

There is now very strong evidence to support that the main mode of transmission is through breath and nasal aerosols, and that the risk from surface and touch transmission is very small indeed. As such, the strict regimes of church cleaning that were recommended at the beginning of the opening of churches for public worship are no longer necessary. General church cleaning is sufficient.

If these guidance points are supported, then churches will continue to be safe places for people to gather for acts of public worship, including over the Christmas period.  

PROPOSALS FOR COVID 19 ROUTE MAP

1. Opening of Churches - Church Buildings can be left open unsupervised for individual prayer at times when there are no public acts of worship. OLOL church will be sanitized when it is locked each day.

2. Freeing the Benches The right hand side of the Church, will remain socially distanced and taped off, for those who feel the need to shield a bit more. The left hand side of the Church – every pew will be available, but kneeling/kneelers are NOT to be used.

3. ‘Leave a Space Cards’ will be available to pick up from the porch table and at the back of the church in order that people who wish to maintain a space between themselves and the next person can put a card beside them on the bench.

4. Track and Trace We shall follow our track and trace routines for as long as the NHS system is in operation. We shall keep the track and trace mass sheets, as well as the QR system. This is mandatory.

5. Stewards Stewards for the time being will continue to guide you to your seats. The Bishop would like stewards to welcome people as they come in and to sanitise the church at the end of mass.

6. Holy Communion No change – please wait for the steward to guide you.

7. Masks We shall continue to require people to wear masks unless medically exempt.

8.The Offertory Collection  we will continue to ask the congregation to continue to use the baskets (and Dona Contactless facility at OLOL) at the entrance and exits from the churches. 

VACCINE

In the light of the recent breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine development, the Department for Social Justice has issued a follow up to its September 2020 statement.

In September 2020 the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement COVID-19 and Vaccination (24 September 2020). In the light of the recent breakthrough in vaccine development we now wish to issue a follow up statement.

The development of a vaccine against COVID-19 presents an important breakthrough in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus; a virus which has not only caused a global pandemic and led to a huge loss of life but has also placed a great burden on healthcare workers and systems.

Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate.

At present, debate concerns the use of the vaccines developed by Pfizer & BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. Some have questioned the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since it has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus in 1983.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine.

Both the Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have a different source since they are mRNA-based vaccines. On 2 December 2020, the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK.

Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world.

Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.

Right Reverend Richard Moth

Chair, Department of Social Justice

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

CHURCH HEALTH AND SAFETY

ALL Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes continue to be Live Streamed so that parishioners can still participate. Both Churches are temporarily shut during lockdown. We hope to reinstate Private Prayer subject to the availability of stewards who feel safe to continue to do so and following the guidelines below.

Upon entering the Church for private prayer please sanitise your hands, please either scan in on the NHS track and trace or tick your name off the register. Please collect a piece of paper to leave on the pew when you leave to indicate to the stewards the area that needs to be cleaned.

Please be respectful of what the stewards are trying to do, they have strict guidelines from the Diocese that we have to adhere to.

FACEMASKS : New measures have been introduced by the government to help keep our church family safe. The British Government has announced that face coverings are mandatory in places of worship. This measure has been introduced to help keep our church family safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, with all those attending church required to wear a face covering or mask unless they are exempt from doing so.

The Diocese advise face coverings should be worn covering mouth and nose. Clear face shields can be worn, in addition to face masks if you so wish - only people exempt from wearing masks need not - we appreciate peoples understanding in this.

Public Health officials have been given extra powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings in public spaces though their approach is to educate rather than penalise. It it is for everyone’s good that face coverings are worn though not everyone is able to wear one. Our welcomers and stewards should never be in a position where they are required to enforce the wearing of face coverings, instead, anyone unable to wear a face covering should be guided to a section of church where it is possible to maintain a distance of two metres from others.

God bless, Fr. Benny

Please do not come if you are feeling unwell for any reason.

Please download the Government NHS Track and Trace App and scan yourself in when you enter enter Church - otherwise please check in with the steward to manually record your track and trace details.