Time to return to Sunday Mass, say bishops

It’s time to return to Sunday Mass in person, say the bishops of England & Wales.

At their first face-to-face meeting since lockdown, the bishops issued a statement, Honouring Sunday.

Acknowledging that many people have been watching live-streamed Masses during the pandemic, the bishops say it’s time to review church-going practice.

They say: “We now encourage all Catholics to look again at the patterns which they have formed in recent months with regard to going to Mass on Sundays.

“This would include consideration and reflection about what we might do on Sundays, such as sports or shopping, or other leisure and social activities.”

Public worship was suspended in March 2020. Even with the piecemeal lifting of restrictions, many parish churches have invested in streaming Sunday Masses.

Online services and “the remarkable response of our Catholic communities to those in need” have provided “comfort, sustenance and resilience”.

But now, say the bishops, it’s time to review how we spend our Sundays.

They say: “This review, and the decisions which arise from it, fall to every Catholic and we trust this will be done with honesty, motivated by a real love for the Lord whom we encounter in the Mass.”

“We yearn to celebrate the sacraments together, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We desire to be nourished by our Lord in Holy Communion.”

Honouring Sunday describes Sunday Eucharist as “a gift”.

It says: “When the Church speaks of the Sunday obligation, it reminds us that attending Mass is a personal response to the selfless offering of Christ’s love.”

In July 2021, the bishops expected “all Catholics in England and Wales” to fulfil the Sunday Obligation, by the First Sunday in Advent 2021.

However, in Honouring Sunday they say that, for some people, there may be “certain factors” which deter people from attending Mass in person.

“The pandemic is clearly not over,” they say. “The risk of infection is still present.

“For some, there is legitimate fear in gathering together.

“As your bishops, we recognise that these prevailing circumstances suggest that not everyone is yet in the position to fulfil the absolute duty to attend freely Sunday Mass.”

The full text of Honouring Sunday can be found here. • Comment: Livestreaming Mass could be safer.

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