Parish Councils for Lent and Easter 2022

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 @ 11:14 a.m.

Advice to parishes to limit viral infection and transmission as we move towards normal ways of life and worship. Includes specific notes for Lent and Easter.

introduction

As the Government has now lifted most Covid-19 restrictions and urged everyone to adopt the recommendations of the ‘Covid Response: Living with Covid-19’ document, the primary means of protecting people attending Catholic churches in England and in Wales is through participation in the government vaccination programme. Those who are fully vaccinated (i.e. two routine vaccinations plus a booster) will have significant personal resilience against the main diseases of the Covid-19 virus and its variants. The Catholic Church has promoted everyone’s participation in the vaccination program as part of its mitigation of virus transmission in churches and related buildings.

In addition to the positive effects of the covid vaccination, it should be emphasized that anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and not participate in worship services at church. This is good practice for any communicable disease. Medical advice should be sought, if necessary, for sick people.

The following points are suggested as best practice methods against the transmission of the virus in our churches:

  • Hand sanitizer should be available for all at the entry and exit points of our churches.
  • The need for social distancing is removed, so churches must operate to normal capacity.
  • Those who wish to wear a face covering may do so when celebrating Mass.
  • The use of hymnals and other worship aids is permitted as part of the liturgy. The servants and their various ministries (acolyte, deliverer, censer) are to be encouraged to return.
  • The containers containing the altar breads for the consecration at Mass must remain covered until the time of the distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful.
  • Holy Communion must be distributed to the faithful in one form only (ie the Holy Host). During concelebrations involving several priests, Communion for them must take place by intinction of the Holy Host in the Precious Blood.
  • Those distributing Holy Communion must wear a face covering and sanitize their hands before doing so.
  • Singing can occur and there is general encouragement to wear a face covering while singing. However, it is recognized that not everyone will feel able to do so.
  • Contact tracing ended on February 24 and therefore there is no need to track and trace QR codes or other means (e.g. mass reservation systems) in our churches from now on.

Specific notes for Lent and Easter

At Ash Wednesday, the imposition of the ashes must take place at the normal moment of the liturgy. These can be administered in two ways:

  • The traditional way in these countries is to daub a cross on the person’s forehead.
  • The “continental” way of spreading the ashes on the crown of the penitent.

In both cases, the person distributing the ashes must disinfect their hands before and wash them afterwards and wear a face covering.

At Holy Thursday, the washing of the feet within the framework of the rite of Mandatum is restored. The celebrant must wear a face covering when performing this rite.

At Good Friday, the Veneration of the Cross is also restored. Those who approach the Cross, after making the customary bow before it, may either touch the Cross in a devotional manner or kiss the Cross provided that an alcohol wipe is used to cleanse the place which is venerated after every kiss by the faithful.

the Easter Vigil is restored to its full Rite. The gathering of the faithful for the ceremonies may have candles and the baptismal liturgy may take place with any associated confirmations. For the anointings that are part of it, the thumb or a cotton swab can be used, the celebrant taking care to clean his hands well. The sprinkling of the faithful during the vidi aquam is authorized.

Conclusion

As the circulation of the virus continues in society, the clear direction from the UK government is that after two years of restrictions and following the successful roll out of the vaccination programme, normal lifestyles should return. This is true for Church life in England and Wales in all its activities. While acknowledging this principle, local vigilance in terms of viral infection and transmission should be exercised and local adaptations should be put in place.

Reverend Canon Christopher Thomas
February 28, 2022

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