A new Covid-19 group will examine how best to meet the long-term pastoral needs of Catholics during the current pandemic.

The Pastoral Ministry Working Group has been formed by The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and was announced yesterday (Wednesday 13 May).

It is chaired by Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. He said: "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, so our Pastoral Working Group hopes to identify and publicise advice or resources to help dioceses and parishes face fresh challenges in a safe manner.”

The aim of the group is 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".

It will also examine a range of liturgical, spiritual and welfare needs during long-term restrictions.

The pastoral group includes Margaret Barton, the RE Adviser for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and Nicola McDonagh, a parishioner at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.

The announcement follows the formation of a Covid-19 group chaired by former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Sir Harry Burns, which is looking at Infection Control Protocol to govern the phased reopening of churches for public worship.

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.”

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, RE 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