The legal requirement to wear face coverings in churches in Scotland will be removed from Monday 4 April. Individuals may continue to wear face coverings if they wish to do so, and this should be respected.
In the meantime:
Please respect the space of fellow parishioners where possible.
Hands should be sanitised on entering and exiting the Church.
Continue to ensure good ventilation.
Please note that the legal requirement to wear face coverings will be removed for the church building. Therefore, the change will apply to all activities which take place within the church building and not just to acts of worship.
Covid-19: What can we do in churches at Level 0
Scotland has now moved to the lowest level of covid restrictions
What this means for Churches
We can move to one metre of physical distancing instead of two metres. That means most churches will be able to increase their capacity.
Congregational singing is allowed, albeit behind face coverings (singing is already allowed in Level 1 areas).
The maximum attendance at weddings and funerals will rise to 200.
From Monday 19 July:
▪️ One metre physical distancing replaces two metres.
▪️ Congregational singing is allowed, albeit behind face coverings (singing is already allowed in Level 1 areas).
Archbishop Cushley has welcomed church re-openings and thanked clergy and volunteers in this video message for parishioners in our Archdiocese.
Church closures deemed unlawful in court challenge
The closure of places of worship by the Scottish Government has been deemed unlawful after a successful court challenge.
The action was brought by 27 leaders of Christian churches in Scotland and was supported by Canon Tom White, a priest of the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
They argued that the decision to close churches was unconstitutional and infringed on the right to manifest their religion under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Lord Braid agreed that the Government's emergency legislation went further than was lawfully allowed.
No other Catholic clergy were part of the legal action. However, Archbishop Leo Cushley, Bishop John Keenan (Paisley) and Bishop Stephen Robson (Dunkeld) submitted affidavits (written statements).
Breaking: Lord Braid agreed the regulations that closed our churches went further than was lawfully allowed and were a disproportionate interference of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. pic.twitter.com/gH9SjwuQtG
— Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh (@archedinburgh) March 24, 2021
Archbishop Cushley challenged the proportionality of criminalising the opening of churches, which the Scottish Government imposed without consultation.
He highlighted the lack of consultation with Bishops from the Government, the imposition of seemingly arbitrary numerical caps (50 and 20) and the characterisation of public worship as 'non-essential indoor contact'.
In his judgment, Lord Braid said: "The attendance at mass is seen as an essential, not optional, element of the Catholic faith...A consecrated church building is considered to be a sacred space. The sacramental grace cannot be received from a video-recorded or video-streamed service."
Speaking to the BBC, Canon Tom White, parish priest of St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow, said: "I'm overjoyed to hear that the court has understood the essential need to protect not only the physical and material health of our society but also its spiritual needs and therefore overturned the disproportionate, unnecessary and unlawful blanket ban on public worship."
Christians challenge legality of Scottish church closures
The decision to close churches in Scotland while others across Europe remained open is being challenged in a hearing today (Thursday 11 March).
A total of 27 church leaders from different Christian denominations across the country brought the action following the decision by the Scottish Government to criminalise public worship in churches as part of its lockdown restrictions.
They will contest State interference in the human right of religious freedom in Scotland at a time when churches in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remained open with safety measures in place.
The two-day full judicial review began at the Court of Session this morning. It comes just days after the announcement that places of worship can reopen on 26 March.
Canon Tom White, parish priest of St Alphonsus' Church in Glasgow, is one of those taking part in the judicial review.
A Glasgow priest has launched legal action against Covid-19 related church closures. Scottish worshippers currently face criminal penalties for going to church, in contrast to their English neighbours who can attend with safety measures in place.#ADFInternationalpic.twitter.com/lJVs3ia5bu
No other Catholic clergy are part of the legal action. However three bishops, including Archbishop Leo Cushley, have individually submitted affidavits (written statements).
In his affidavit, submitted in a personal capacity, Archbishop Cushley challenges the proportionality of criminalising the opening of churches, which the Scottish Government imposed without consultation.
He does not dispute whether or not churches should be open or closed at this time but instead highlights the lack of consultation with Bishops from the Government, the imposition of seemingly arbitrary numerical caps (50 and 20) and the characterisation of public worship as 'non-essential indoor contact'.
If successful, the judicial review could see the Scottish Government's blanket ban on public worship due to the Covid-19 pandemic deemed unlawful.
The Catholic Bishops of Scotland have issued a statement welcoming the move that will open churches in time for Easter - and have called for a removal of the cap which limits the number of people who can attend.
Instead, the bishops says congregation size should be calculated in accordance with the size of each church, a system similar to that used in the retail sector, which still maintains social distancing regulations.
As Scotland’s Catholic bishops, we welcome the recent announcement by the First Minister foreseeing a return to our churches for the most important celebration of the liturgical year at Easter. We also welcome the recognition of the status of public worship implicit in this decision.
The Catholic Community recognises the seriousness of the pandemic and is committed to working with others to avoid the spreading of infection.
At the same time, we anticipate ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government regarding the requirement of a numerical “cap” on the number of worshippers.
As we continue to observe social distancing and the protocols on infection control and hygiene formulated by the Bishops’ Conference working group under the leadership of the former Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns, we maintain that it would be more appropriate for each church building to accommodate a congregation in proportion to its size rather than on the basis of an imposed number.
We echo here the timely words Pope Francis addressed to the representatives of countries to the Holy See on the 8th February 2021:
Even as we seek ways to protect human lives from the spread of the virus, we cannot view the spiritual and moral dimension of the human person as less important than physical health.
The opening of churches is a sign that the sacrifices endured so far are bearing fruit and gives us hope and encouragement to persevere. We pray that the Risen Christ, for whom we long during this holy season of Lent, will bless and bring healing to our nation.
First Minister: Planned reopening of churches for Easter
The Scottish Government has published a Strategic Framework Update on the latest plans out of lockdown. Read it here.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Communal worship will also, we hope, restart around 5th April, albeit with restricted numbers to begin with.
I asked the FM to clarify the SNP government’s messy and confusing approach to re-opening places of worship. It is worrying that initially, Nicola Sturgeon failed to take account of major religious festivals. pic.twitter.com/1gnIzdTRwZ
"However, in deciding the exact date for this we will obviously take into account the timing of major religious festivals, for example Easter and Passover so it may be a few days earlier when communal worship can restart.”
Reopening would begin on a 'restricted numbers basis' with just 20 people allowed into Church (see below table).
Archbishop Cushley said: "Our speakers come from the fields of religion, ethics, philosophy and politics respectively, and all share a Christian background.
"This is a unique moment in all our lives so I wanted to find out their approach to the covid crisis and to share that with others. I'm grateful that they've accepted my invitation to speak. They have each been given a blank page for their event so we can all look forward to a series of stimulating talks."
Bishop Philip Egan | Sunday 31 January 5pm | Register here
Philip Egan is Bishop of Portsmouth Diocese. He is a popular speaker on theology and catechetics as well as a regular contributor to magazines. He is the author of Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer (Collegeville, 2009).
Dr Mary Rice Hasson | Sunday 07 February 5pm | Register here
Dr Mary Rice Hasson is the Kate O'Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC. She also directs the Catholic Women's Forum. Mary is an expert on topics related to women, faith, culture, family, sexual morality, and gender ideology.
Professor John Haldane | Sunday 14 February 5pm | Register here
John Haldane is one of the heavyweights of modern philosophy in the UK. He is Professor of Moral Philosophy Emeritus at the University of St Andrews among other universities. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture and served for ten years in that role.
Rt Hon Gordon Brown | Sunday 21 February 5pm | Register here
Gordon Brown is the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007, making him the longest-serving Chancellor in modern history.
Church closures: Archbishop's message to parishioners
Archbishop Cushley has highlighted the "dismay and frustration" of Catholics following the temporary closure of churches this week.
In a video released by the Archdiocese today, he said: "Christians are called to love their neighbour, no matter who or what they may be or believe. And although we close our churches reluctantly, we do so in the service the public good."
His message follows a statement released earlier this week by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, which questioned the decision to close places of worship.
The Scottish Government announced strong lockdown measures on Monday, which included closing places of worship, in the latest bid to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Archbishop Cushley's message
My dear friends,
I'm sure you share my dismay and frustration at the closure of our churches once more, effective as of today. It had been my hope that the government would not take this final step, but here we are.
As Christians, we have a keen sense of the common good and of our civic responsibility. Christians are called to love their neighbour, no matter who or what they may be or believe. And although we close our churches reluctantly, we do so in the service the public good.
So, let me urge you to cooperate with the authorities in doing absolutely everything we can to bring the spread of this pandemic to a swift end.
Like many of you, I also look forward to a fresh appreciation of how safe our churches have been made and how essential freedom of worship is to us, and to many others in this country, something that is also a part of the common good, and that I fear is sometimes underestimated.
There are also resources to help individuals and families pray together, and especially to make Sunday holy. So, let’s be nimble and imaginative about how we practice our faith.
Above all, pray for all those affected by the crisis, those put out of work, those whose lives have been cut short by Covid, and those working in the medical and emergency services and risking their own health for the sake of others.
Finally, don’t forget to bring it to prayer: offer a Memorare every day for a swift end to the crisis.