News Centre

Additional updates during coronavirus pandemic

The following additional guidance for clergy was published on 26th March 2020 and follows decisions by the Metropolitan Archbishops on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

  1. The pattern of priestly ministry during the pandemic
  • In the absence of their regular routines, priests should devote themselves to the daily celebration of Mass, prayer, reading and keeping in contact with their people by telephone and internet.
  • Visits to homes for in extremis celebrations of baptism and anointing of the dying are permitted, observing the necessary hygiene and distancing regulations. The anointing should follow Bishop Mason’s guidelines. Such ministry is considered an essential work, for which travel is justifiable.
  • Those who have received letters from the NHS must follow the instructions in the letter strictly, and make their ministry one of prayer, and offering support by telephone or internet.
  • Any sacramental ministry requested of a priest over 70 or with underlying health conditions may be referred to a priest who is not in either of these categories.
  • Priests should feel free to approach their Dean, Episcopal Vicar or local Bishop at any time if they are in need of support. 
  1. Live streaming/streamed of Mass
  • Live-streamed or pre-recorded and streamed Masses must not include concelebration.
  • It is important that good social distancing is modelled in every streamed Mass.
  • Only those who live “on site” (eg in a presbytery) may be present at any streamed liturgy. People must not travel to these services to fulfil a supplementary role (eg. organist, cantor, server, reader etc).  An exception is when a priest objectively requires help to celebrate the Mass.
  • Live-streamed or pre-recorded and streamed deaf-signed Masses are not permitted as this requires the travelling of a signer, unless the priest can sign the Mass himself.
  1. Funerals
  • Guidance issued last week remains: no church services, graveside and cremation services only. The local guidance of crematorium and cemetery authorities must be followed.
  • In conducting such prayers, priests must follow guidelines on social distancing.
  • Coffins must not be taken to our churches for resting overnight before a committal as this will necessitate cleaning of the churches.
  • After the pandemic, Masses in memoriam will be permitted in the presence of the ashes for those committed during this time.
  1. Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • In addition to the earlier guidance it is to be noted that confessions cannot be heard over the telephone. Services of General Absolution cannot be held as this involves travel and the gathering of people.  Requests for individual confession may be difficult to meet, given the demands of social distancing and church closure. It is deemed reasonable for a priest to refuse a request for these reasons. A note on Easter Duties will be circulated soon.
  1. Mass for Religious Communities
  • Chaplains observing the necessary hygiene and distancing conditions may celebrate Mass for enclosed communities, if that is the wish of the community. The community sacristan should prepare everything for the celebration of Mass.  Chaplains should enter the sacristy and celebrate the Mass without contact with those inside the enclosure.  The celebrant should have his own chalice and paten (and host).  After receiving communion, he should retire from the altar and a member of the community should distribute Holy Communion to the community from a separate ciborium. 
  • However, this should not happen for communities of apostolic life and communities who have other visitors, such as care workers entering to look after elderly residents, where the risk of spreading the virus is greater.
  1. Holy Week
  • More detailed guidance will be forthcoming.


We are all invited to join the Holy Father in a period of prayer this Friday evening, 27 March 2020, at 5pm, which he will conduct alone in St Peter’s Square, and will conclude with an Urbi et Orbi blessing. In these exceptional circumstances, a Plenary Indulgence is attached to this blessing.