A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops of the Catholic Church in England and Wales
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us. At a time when so many shadows are
cast into our lives, and upon our world, the light of the resurrection shines forever to
renew and restore our hope. In the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘In the
midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up,
and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that
saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.’ (27 March 2020)
The impact of Covid-19, both nationally and internationally, has been immense. So
much of what we take for granted has changed. Our health and physical interaction,
our capacity to travel and gather, have all been affected. There is uncertainty in our
future, especially with work and the country’s economy. As we know, very sadly,
large numbers of people have died because of the coronavirus, and others have been
or remain seriously ill. Keyworkers, not least in the National Health Service and care
sectors, are serving selflessly to sustain the life of our nation. Our hearts and prayers
go out to everyone who is suffering because of Covid-19, and to all those battling to
overcome its effects. May those who have died rest in peace and those who are
bereaved find comfort.
When the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, this included places of worship
and therefore Catholic churches. These measures were put in place to stem the
general transmission of the virus. It is right that the Catholic community fulfils its
role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society. This
must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted.
None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. While the
live-streaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in
maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to
physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other
sacraments. Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing,
touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognises the
pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments.
This weighs heavily on our hearts. We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning
expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love
for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice
of the Mass. The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your
loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and wellbeing.’
We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.
As the Government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to
opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral
life step by step. This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who
depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is
shared by so many volunteers from our communities.
None of us knows, as yet, how or when the lockdown will end. There is likely to be
a phased return to travelling and gathering. As a church, we are now planning for
this time and our discussions with the statutory public health agencies and
Government representatives are ongoing. Together with Catholics across England
and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until
then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.
We want to acknowledge with gratitude the service of our fellow bishops and priests,
our deacons and religious, our families and lay faithful, together with all our parish
and school communities, for the wonderful ways the life of the faith is being
nourished at this time, especially in the home. We also pay tribute to the Catholic
organisations and networks that are working to support the vulnerable and needy.
On that first Easter day, the disciples were in lockdown and the doors were closed.
In their isolation the Lord Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you.’ May
the peace of the risen Lord reign in our hearts and homes as we look forward to the
day we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the
Sacrifice of Praise.
We unite in asking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and assure you of our
prayers and blessing
Yours devotedly in Christ,
✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
✠ Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool
✠ Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham
✠ George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff
✠ John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark