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Bishops announce suspension of all Catholic mass services

By Matt Leslie

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Catholic mass services at St Anne's church in Thurso and St Joachim's in Wick have been suspended due to the Coronavirus.

Following a meeting held by Scotland's Bishops – that included the Bishop of Aberdeen, the Rt Rev Hugh Gilbert, whose dioceses covers Caithness – Roman Catholic worshippers were relieved from their obligation to attend mass until further notice.

Priests will continue to celebrate mass in private while churches will remain open for personal prayer while parish priests will be available for the sacrements of confession, holy communion and the annointing of the sick.

With regard to baptisms, funeral services and weddings, worshippers are advised that only close family should be invited.

In a public letter co-signed by all of Scotland's Bishops, they wrote: "In this time of trial we, the Bishops of Scotland, wish to send you a word of reassurance and encouragement. We are all facing much uncertainty, anxiety and an unpredictable future.

"This situation touches on every aspect of our lives, individually and collectively. Sacred Scripture calls us repeatedly not to fear and to look to the help that comes to us from above.

"We are called to support one another in every way we can, especially those who are most vulnerable, through age or underlying conditions. Even in the midst of any necessary 'distancing' we must stand by each other.

We are responding to an unprecedented crisis in modern times

"Given the official advice to reduce the spread of Covid-19 (the Coronavirus), we have taken the difficult decision respecting the prudential judgement of each Bishop to suspend Holy Mass in public for the time being from Thursday March 19, the feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.

"As pastors of the flocks entrusted to us, we are responding to an unprecedented crisis in modern times and assure all those whom we lead that this decision has not been taken without much prayer and discernment.

"Priests will continue to celebrate Holy Mass in private with the particular intention of praying for those suffering from Covid-19 and those who care for them.

"Our Churches will remain open for personal prayer and we would encourage parish priests to welcome individuals who seek consolation and encouragement from the Lord.

"We also ask our priests to be available for the reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion as and when they are needed especially for the sick and housebound.

"For the celebration of baptisms, funeral Masses and weddings we would ask that only close family are invited.

"We wish to remain close to and with our priests who are on the front line of pastoral care, as we remain close to the Lord, sure of that victory of Christ we celebrate at Easter.

"We encourage you where possible to access the live streaming of Holy Mass from the many parishes in our diocese and country which have that facility.

"As Government advice changes, we will update our guidance accordingly in the hope of restoring the public celebration of Mass. In the meantime, please ensure that no one feels abandoned in our communities and do what you can in practical terms to help those who are alone."

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