As COVID cases rise, Scotland bishops say churches ‘among safest places’ during pandemic

As COVID cases rise, Scotland bishops say churches ‘among safest places’ during pandemic

A torn Scottish Saltire flag hangs over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, Friday, Aug, 21, 2020. (Credit David Cheskin/AP.)

Scotland’s bishops say the Catholic Church in the country has been “meticulous in controlling infection and ensuring the safety of all those who cross the threshold” of a church building in the country, and public worship can continue safely, even during a “second wave” of the pandemic.

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Scotland’s bishops say the Catholic Church in the country has been “meticulous in controlling infection and ensuring the safety of all those who cross the threshold” of a church building in the country, and public worship can continue safely, even during a “second wave” of the pandemic.

Their comments came in a letter sent to parishes as Scotland is experiencing an upsurge in cases of COVID-19 and the government is preparing new restrictions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The average number of daily cases over the past week is 729, compared to 285 two weeks ago.

In their letter, the bishops note that the country is at a “fragile point.”

“At this critical moment, we ask that we all persevere in our efforts to reduce the risk of transmission and to ensure that our parishes and communities adhere to all infection control measures that have been put in place,” the letter states.

“Our discussions with the Scottish Government assure us that Government is aware of our extremely careful protocols and trusts us to see to our public worship and parish life with the discretion of responsible citizens. We, for our part, assure Government that we are employing this discretion for the good of public health in accordance with the law,” the bishops continue.

The bishops also point to the Church’s long experience of plagues and disasters, and claim “the want of prayer and faith can do great harm to the spiritual wellbeing of nations, and how our public worship – owed to God – can bring His special divine assistance in times of national trouble.”

Bishop John Keenan, Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said with their letter, the bishops are “urging everyone to redouble their efforts to reduce the risk of transmission and ensure that we all adhere to the infection control measures that we have put in place.”

“The tireless work of priests, parishioners and volunteers have ensured that Catholic churches are among the safest places for people to attend in the midst of this pandemic,” the bishop said.

“Although no evidence has emerged of cases or clusters connected to our churches, we have every confidence that, if parishes continue their high standards of infection control, then public worship and parish life can carry on and we will continue to be able to attend to the spiritual welfare of the nation,” Keenan added.

The bishop also noted the “surge” in cases of depression, hopelessness and suicide during the pandemic.

“The loss of normality in all its facets has left many feeling bereft and desolate, in need of spiritual solace, like never before. It is in times of greatest peril that we need the spiritual comfort of public worship most, now, more than ever, our church doors need to be open, so that worshipping in safety can continue,” he said.

The Republic of Ireland suspended all public worship services for three weeks beginning Wednesday as the country went into “Level 3” of COVID-19 prevention protocols. It is the only country in Europe to ban public worship after since churches reopened after coronavirus restrictions imposed in February and March began to ease during the summer.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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