Catholic Bishops announce new Covid-19 Working Group
Bishop speaks of “growth and hope after a time of despair”
Wednesday 13 May 2020
The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has announced the formation of a Covid-19 Working Group, which will begin examining how best to meet the long-term pastoral needs of the Catholic community during the pandemic.
A range of approaches, focusing on the liturgical, spiritual and welfare needs of the Catholic community during a time of long-term restrictions will be examined by a newly established Pastoral Ministry Working Group. This group will aim to ensure that the Church is prepared for the possibility of extended restrictions on the operation of parishes and dioceses by planning for forms of pastoral ministry which will be viable in the COVID-19 context.
The group will be chaired by Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. Speaking about the initiative, Bishop McGee said;
“After our public Masses stopped and our Churches closed with almost no warning, the immediate response from our priests and parishioners across Scotland was both impressive and uplifting. With great ingenuity and creativity, online Masses and devotions were made available throughout the country every day. Through this and other action, many vulnerable and lonely people continue to be supported in safe ways.”
“While it will be wonderful when our parishes can reopen, we recognise that Parish life cannot quickly return to normal until a vaccine or a treatment is available. We do not expect this to happen until at least 2021. This means, that even when Churches reopen, parish activities will still be greatly restricted, our Pastoral Working Group hopes to identify and publicise advice or resources to help dioceses and parishes face fresh challenges in a safe manner.”
Bishop McGee added;
“Although not denying the difficulties which lie ahead, our Group had a very positive first meeting. Early figures indicate very high numbers of viewers are watching and downloading Masses and devotions online, leading us to believe that with God’s providential care, the spiritual, pastoral and catechetical work we do can actually help renew the Church in Scotland and bring growth and hope after a time of despair.”
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Membership of Pastoral Ministry Working Group
Bishop Brian McGee (Chair)
Fr Stephen McGrattan, Secretary of the National Liturgical Commission
Fr Michael Kane, Parish Priest, St Augustine’s, Coatbridge
Nicola McDonagh, Parishioner, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh
Margaret Barton, R.E. Adviser, Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh
Barbara Coupar, Director, Scottish Catholic Education Service
Tina Campbell, National Safeguarding Co-ordinator
Michael McGrath, Asst. General Secretary to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
Safeguarding Review Group continues to work during COVID-19
Friday 24 April 2020
The Independent Review Group (IRG), set up by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and chaired by Baroness Helen Liddell, to monitor the implementation of the McLellan Commission on safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults has issued an update advising that it will continue to work throughout the COVID-19 emergency to independently audit safeguarding standards in the Catholic Church in Scotland.
In the update, the IRG points out that “safeguarding is even more important during the lockdown” and points out that representatives of the IRG “have been welcomed at the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group meetings in 6 Dioceses with the final 2 in planning.”
The update also advises that a Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed with Bishops Conference, which will guide the process and shared oversight of future audits.
The IRG conclude, that they “never lose sight of the importance of independence” and recognise “the driving commitment of many in the Church to ensure that the vulnerable among us are protected and shielded with love and compassion.”
The full text of the IRG update can be viewed here:
A brief word to say that you and all your loved ones are in my daily prayers especially when I celebrate Mass every morning.
I pray that The Lord will protect and keep you and all your loved ones safe during these very difficult and unprecedented times.
I was very inspired this week by the selfless example of Don Giuseppe Berardelli, the Parish Priest from the Diocese of Bergamo in Northern Italy who gave his respirator to a younger patient. Don Giuseppe’s parishioners had bought the respirator for their much loved Parish Priest but Don Giuseppe chose in a wonderful act of generosity to give it away.
The words of St. John’s Gospel come to mind, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Father James Martin S.J. called Don Giuseppe a Martyr of Charity. Don Giuseppe had been a priest for 47 years when he died earlier this week at the age of 72. May Don Giuseppe rest in peace and rise in glory.
Perhaps we could ask the prayers of Don Giuseppe who I am sure is enjoying a very high place in Heaven to fill our hearts with love, light, strength and hope in these very worrying times. Once again please be assured of prayers in the week ahead.
God bless you and all your loved ones,
Coronavirus – Volunteering
The Covid-19 crisis has left many people isolated and vulnerable. The elderly, the infirm and the unemployed are just a few of the groups experiencing considerable difficulties at the present time.
Thankfully there are many kind-hearted souls out there who are willing to give of their time to help those in need. A great number of people have engaged in voluntary work in recent weeks and some have created ‘pop-up’ community resilience groups, adding to the work already done by established groups such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
However, in providing this valuable support, volunteers must remain cognizant of Government guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.
Ready Scotland is the official Scottish Government resource providing information on how to safely and responsibly volunteer to help others during the Coronavirus crisis.
The information, below, is taken directly from Ready Scotland and should prove to be a useful resource for anyone wanting to volunteer at this time and for those who would like to set up a community resilience group.
Only help if you are well
Follow advice on nhsinform.scot/coronavirus to ensure it is safe for you to help.
People who may be in need of help
You can help:
Neighbours, friends or family who have to stay at home because someone in the household has coronavirus/symptoms.
Neighbours, friends or family who are 70 and over, or have and health conditions (that means you are offered the flu jab on grounds of health each year)
Providing practical help
There are simple ways you can help your neighbours without exposing yourself or them, if they cannot leave the house:
You could do some food shopping for them when you are doing your own.
You could place an online shopping order for them or talk them through the process over the phone.
You could pick up their prescriptions or arrange a pharmacy delivery where available.
You could support with general errands such as posting letters or putting the bins out.
If you are helping with prescriptions, you should remind people that they must only order the medication they need in their usual quantities; nobody should be stockpiling.
How to do this safely
Try to limit the amount of time you spend outside of your home by picking up essential items for others only when you do your regular shop.
You should not physically visit people who are self-isolating as this would put you at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others. This means you shouldn’t enter their house or go on a car journey with them.
Keep a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you are helping – if you have to see them on the doorstep
Leave any shopping or other messages on the doorstep, but make sure that they have been collected before leaving.
Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
Do not place yourself in compromising positions where you may feel unsafe, for instance helping late at night.
Be aware that if you are helping someone you don’t know personally, they may not want to share personal details with you like phone numbers.
You should also warn those you are helping not to let strangers into their home – and not to give strangers money under any circumstances.
Providing emotional support
Self-isolation can be a really lonely time. However, Government advice is available to protect the most vulnerable in our society. We can help each other by staying in touch – whether neighbours or friends and family who live further away. You can do all of these from your own home:
You personally can help with regular calls, text messages and contact via social media.
You can also help by talking people through the setup for video calls so they can connect with their friends and family remotely.
You can encourage people to stay mentally and physically active with activities such as cooking, reading, gardening, online learning or watching films.
Swap suggestions about how to keep busy. If people are well enough; encourage them to do some light exercise and keep active around the home, perhaps by using an online exercise class.
Share trusted sources of information. It’s easy to become worried by online information, some of which may be deliberately designed to mislead people. Help your community by sharing trusted information from websites like
Our list of services providing additional support
What should I do if I’m worried about someone’s health?
If the health of anyone you are in touch with or supporting is a cause for concern, encourage them to call their GP practice or NHS24 on 111 if the GP is closed.
Similarly, if they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse or their symptoms do not get better after 7 days, please call NHS24 on 111.
Call 999 immediately if you believe someone’s life is at risk.
You can also click to find out more about where you or they can find additional support.
What should I do if I have to stay at home and need help?
Please refer to guidance on staying at home here.
If someone you don’t know calls at your home, always ask for valid ID and always ensure you are comfortable sharing details like your phone number or address. Only provide information on a need-to-know basis and if you have seen valid ID. Do not share financial details like credit/debit card numbers.
Do not feel pressured into providing information. If you have doubts about those who are approaching you, and are concerned, it is advised that you don’t engage, and report serious suspicious behaviour to police.
Remember that genuine volunteers have been instructed not to enter your home and should all have documentation proving their status.
Community Resilience Groups
There are a large number of local community groups that have already started to rally local support. Look out for these on Facebook and in local community channels, and join in.
If you would like to set up a new community resilience group, we have guidance available. These groups provide great help not only during the current challenges, but also in future during bad weather or other disruption.
In many parts of the world this is a strange and disturbing time. Everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s needs are different. It is impossible to say the right thing to everyone (or even to anyone) in a newsletter that is sent out to thousands of anonymous addresses. But let me say two things.
First, at a time when populations are being epidemiologically added, multiplied, counted, almost (it seems) weighed, remember that you are not “1.0 units of population”. You are a person called into being uniquely by God because without you, the masterwork of Creation in all its splendour would have had something missing.
Second, you have been anointed a priest, and anointed a prophet, and anointed a king. It took place a long time ago at your baptism and you were probably not paying attention, but it did happen and now is the time to live those anointings.
As priest, you can open yourself to those you come across, and bear witness to the infinite value of their being and to the love of God for them. You can be there for them and with them, you can be quiet together, or even listen. There is nothing like an open heart and a safe pair of ears.
As prophet, your voice must not be embarrassed to tell of the wonders of the Lord. Do not keep the truth of your faith secret for fear of derision. As long as people do not feel they are being preached at, you will find them remarkably tolerant. Do not expect the seed to grow before your eyes – that is God’s job done in God’s time – but do at least sow and scatter it.
As king – to see how to live your anointing, see first what a king is. Think of a gardener who is at the service of his plants and his crops, which he feeds and weeds and waters; then think of a king who at the service of everybody, keeping them safe and orderly free from want. The gardener serves whoever owns the garden; the king serves whoever owns the universe. Whoever and wherever you are, you are in some sense king of something. And we are all of us servants of each other. The more we do it, the easier it becomes.
When you can’t get to Mass
Someone told me today that she finds it oddly disquieting, when Sunday morning comes round and she is not planning to go to Mass because she never does, to find there is no Mass to go to! Of course if you are in the habit, is is more disquieting still. So please remember that the Mass readings are always there in Universalis – go to universalis.com to find them, and tell all your friends to do the same.
The pattern of many people’s days has been turned upside down and inside out, with complete rearrangements in terms of both time and place. A structured prayer life help to give time back its shape; but don’t bite off more than you can chew. What about Lauds (Morning Prayer) in the morning and Compline (Night Prayer) last thing at night?
If you have the Universalis app, you can also pray the Rosary, and listen to it as well (the recording was made by the pupils and monastic community at Downside).
Sometimes, in times of stress, it is hard to “let go” enough to be able to pray. In that case, you will find that the Spiritual Reading page in the Universalis app is not liturgical at all: it is simply daily teachings and reflections of wise and holy people from every period in history. Try it.
Parish web sites
Some parishes have been in touch asking if they can use our pages to give Mass readings to their parishioners. Our page about this is here.
Lent in Isolation
The people who did the Newman Canonisation web site last year have come up with Lent in Isolation, a more active kind of spiritual resource for people who cannot go out to church. It is only just starting, but have a look at it.
News about Universalis
There are some more instructional videos on how to use the Universalis apps on Android and iPhone/iPad, and you will find them in the apps themselves: tap the screen, go to the Information menu, and you will see a command labelled “Video Instructions”.
Since more of you may be thinking of listening to the Hours or the Mass readings, we have adjusted the subscriptions so that they all give you an introductory free month for trying them out and getting into the habit. universalis.com has the details.
Just in time for this newsletter, one of our users, Adrienne Chalmers, has produced audio instructions for blind people who want to use Universalis with VoiceOver on the iPhone. In her first recording she concentrates on getting into the app and going to the Rosary page. The instructions can be found as part of the blog post at https://universalis.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/praying-the-rosary/
Rt Rev. Joseph Toal STB KC*HS
Bishop of Diocese of Motherwell
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The matter of priests visiting the sick and dying to administer the sacraments in hospitals and at home has been much in my thoughts in recent days, and I offer some reflections for your consideration.
Shortly after my Ordination as a priest in 1980, I was appointed to St Peter’s, Daliburgh, in South Uist. Memory survived there of a priest who died in Daliburgh about 100 years previously, Fr George Rigg. In Fr Rigg’s time in South Uist an infectious disease spread among the people and some were dying from it. There was great fear, especially in regard to entering the homes of those who had the disease. Fr Rigg chose to visit an elderly lady with the disease, who lived on her own and whose house others would not enter. Fr Rigg’s mission was to administer the sacraments to this lady as she was in mortal danger. By entering house and administering the sacraments he himself caught the disease and died. His memory is honoured in South Uist as a priest who acted heroically in order to bring the sacraments to a dying woman. The stories of some of our saints are very similar. Fr Rigg has come to my mind in recent times as I have wondered about how much can be asked of priests as we live through the present pandemic. Are they expected to have Fr Rigg’s ‘self-sacrificing spirit’ and take the risk of catching the virus in attending to the sick, or should it be decided that it is wiser not to take the risk as the Church supplies the necessary reassurance to both the faithful and the clergy that our faith in the Lord himself and his mercy, and the intercession of his Body, the Church, in heaven and on earth, guarantee a safe passage into eternal life? While I have been inspired by Fr Rigg and his willingness to sacrifice himself, I have also found guidance this week in the instructions offered by the Apostolic Penitentiary on how to spiritually live through serious illness and possibly death without the consolation of the sacraments.
The Note on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Current Pandemic says:
“Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).”
Then the Decree on the Granting of Special Indulgences to the Faithful in the Current Pandemic says:
“The Church prays for those who find themselves unable to receive the Sacrament of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and everyone to Divine Mercy by virtue of the Communion of Saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence, the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended.”
The mention of the Cross brings to mind St Luke’s account of the Crucifixion, and in particular the dialogue between Jesus and the man we know as the ‘good thief’. The dying criminal turns to Jesus and pleads “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Our dying Lord replies “Today you will be with me in paradise”. The Lord himself, through his wonderful words, is the ultimate guarantee of our salvation. By turning to him in the same spirit as the man dying with him he promises that, sharing in his cross through illness and ultimately death, we will share also in his resurrection and eternal life. Even without the consolation and blessing of his sacraments, we know that our Crucified and Risen Saviour is very close to us in the extreme moments of life and remains with us whatever happens. With such confidence in the Lord’s goodness and mercy we can entrust ourselves and our loved ones through Him into Our Father’s hands, sharing his last words on the Cross – ‘ Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’.
Whether the faithful are able to receive the sacraments or not through this pandemic they must be reassured that the Lord is with them and will not leave them. We have his words that this is true, and the faith and tradition of the Church as added reassurance. It is always desirable for the sick and dying to receive the sacraments but I am aware that, as the virus spreads and more people become seriously ill, access to hospitals will be further restricted and this may include the possibility of priests being able to administer the sacraments. I ask the faithful to understand this would not be our wish but a consequence of the grave emergency we are in and the need to protect against the spread of the virus. My words are intended therefore as encouragement and solace if this does happen. I also advise that great caution is necessary if a priest is requested to visit a sick person at home. Priests over 70 or with any underlying health issues cannot do so, and those that are able to can only come if properly protected and to meet only the sick person. Visits should be brief and the priest should touch nothing while in a house.
I offer you all my prayerful support in these difficult days,
Yours in Christ.
+ Joseph Toal
Closure of Churches from Monday 23rd March'20
Following revised advice and the statement earlier from the UK and Scottish Governments Bishop Toal announces the closure of all Churches in the Diocese of Motherwell for the foreseeable future.