As Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, Catholics must prepare to return to churches and place Sunday Mass at the heart of their post-pandemic lives, the bishops of England and Wales have said.
In a reflection on the post-pandemic recovery and the challenges faced by the Church, the bishops used their recent Spring plenary meeting to encourage people back to the Church and her Sacraments.
The reflection, titled The Day of the Lord, acknowledged and praised the creative and diverse methods of outreach during the pandemic – not least the live streaming of Mass.
But as the UK prepares to return to normality with talk of a post-pandemic society only a matter of months away, the bishops have urged the faithful to be ready to return to public worship once public guidance and restrictions allow them to do so.
Recognising that it is impossible to predict the pace at which society will emerge from the pandemic, the bishops state “what is clear is the challenge we face of bringing our communities and the practise of the faith to a still greater expression and strength”.
Among the groups of people the bishops are seeking to reach are those who have lost the habit of going to church and who may be anxious about doing so.
They also want to reach those who may not want to re-establish a pattern of Catholic worship, those who may have seen a gap widen between the spiritual dimension of their lives and any communal expression of that spiritual quest.
The bishops also say they would like to encourage the ‘Covid curious’ – those who may have encountered the Catholic Church for the first time during the pandemic – to strengthen their faith and become regular, practising Catholics.
The bishops highlight the strengths, the “veritable treasures” of the Catholic Church as being the tools at their disposal to rise to these challenges. They say the greatest treasure is, of course, the sacramental life of the Church and at its heart, the Eucharist.
“It is the Eucharist, the celebration of the Mass, that makes the Church; and it is the Church, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, which makes the Eucharist. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the lifeblood of the Church. It requires our active participation and, to be fully celebrated, our physical presence,” they say.
“At this moment, then, we need to have in our sights the need to restore to its rightful centrality in our lives the Sunday Mass, encouraging each to take his or her place once again in the assembly of our brothers and sisters.
“We face the task of seeking to nurture the sense of Sunday as ‘a weekly gift from God to his people’, and something we cannot do without; to see Sunday as the soul of the week, as giving light and meaning to all the responsibilities we live out each day; to see the Sunday Eucharist as food for the unique mission with which we have been endowed.”
Picture: Cardinal Vincent Nichols addresses a packed Westminster Cathedral in 2019. (Mazur/cbcew.org.uk).