Closure of churches
As you will know, the Prime Minister yesterday instructed all people to stay at home (except in exceptional circumstances) and to avoid all gatherings of more than two people. As a result of this announcement, and following instructions from the Scottish Government, the Bishops’ Conference reluctantly mandated the closure of all our churches across the country (see attachment 1).
The Bishops encourage all priests to continue to celebrate daily Mass privately, and to keep in touch with their parishioners through the means of modern technology. I attach a document that helps explain how it is possible to harness the internet to transmit Mass to your people and to stay in touch with them in prayer and spiritual solidarity (attachment 2). Please let your parishioners know that you will be celebrating Mass for them, even if they cannot be present. I also attach some thinking you may wish to reflect upon and share with them on eucharistic fasting and spiritual communion (attachments 3 and 4).
Unfortunately, social distancing means that we ought not to distribute the Sacraments except at an inconvenient distance, which means that Holy Communion may now be given to people only in danger of death.
Sunday Mass online
If you are communicating with your people online, please also remind them that, although we cannot go to Mass on Sunday at the moment, we are nevertheless obliged, as Christians, to keep the Sabbath holy. Please, therefore, encourage them to pray at home together and to assist at Mass online if they can.
Sunday Mass is now available in English, Polish and Syro-Malabar, each Sunday, from various places in the diocese. I am very grateful to all those of you who have successfully reached out to your people in this way.
Christian Initiation at Easter
The situation regarding Holy Week has now changed dramatically. In line with the recent decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (attachment 5), I have reluctantly decided to postpone this year’s Chrism Mass indefinitely. The Rites of Christian Initiation that were due to take place at the Easter Vigil must unfortunately also be postponed. If things have returned to normal by then, I propose that these Rites might be held at Pentecost, however we will have to see how things develop before this can be confirmed.
With a view to your private celebration and its eventual broadcast online, I also hope to send you, by next week, a much-abbreviated form of the other Holy Week liturgies, in keeping with the spirit of the liturgy and the present constraints.
Unhappily, the popular Polish blessing service on Holy Saturday must also be suspended. I invite our Polish priests to be imaginative about holding a blessing service online for their people. Thank you for your understanding.
Use the Emergency Rites to consecrate Oil of the Sick as required: a helpful version of the Rites in cases of danger of death is also attached (attachment 6).
Visiting the Sick and Elderly, and taking Holy Communion to them
Due to the new regulations announced yesterday, neither you nor your Eucharistic Ministers may now visit the Sick. The only call that you may respond to is to someone in danger of death.
Penance & Reconciliation
The obligation of social distancing will also create some difficulty with regard to the Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation. If you are approached for the Sacrament of Penance, therefore, you must take into account all the Government’s hygiene precautions and maintain a significant distance between yourself and the penitent.
The Anointing of the Sick & Viaticum
Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum should only be carried out in danger of death. If you do anoint someone, let me suggest that you follow the advice from NHS Lothian (attachment 7). If you are over 70, or have underlying conditions, do not expose yourself to risk. Those who do anoint those in danger of death must observe all the Government’s hygiene precautions strictly.
Anointing may be applied (e.g. on the back of the hands) using a piece of cotton wool, to be used once and then disposed of properly. In hospital you will be required to put on a disposable gown, mask, and gloves.
Baptisms, Marriages & Funerals
Baptisms and Marriages have been suspended by the State. Funerals now consist solely in a short ceremony either at the graveside or the crematorium, attended by only the immediate family members: how many people will depend on the State, and perhaps the Funeral Directors. No matter how many people come, social distancing must be observed. Please choose Rites from the books that will make the moment significant but brief. Offer also to celebrate a Requiem Mass on the day itself for the deceased, although you must do so until further notice without the presence of the people.
The Gillis Centre is now closed. The Curial staff are all working from home, but can be contacted on their usual telephone numbers or by email.
Deaneries Consultation – 20 March 2020
I am grateful to those of you who took the time to make some suggestions in the consultation. I have taken note of all the views expressed.
Day of Prayer, 25 and 27 March 2020
Please join the Holy Father as he prays tomorrow with all Christians throughout the world at 11:00, and for his special Urbi et Orbi blessing on Friday at 17:00.
There is also a letter from the Scottish Catholic Observer for your attention (attachments 8 and 9).
I would also ask you to encourage everyone to pray the Memorare once a day to Our Lady, Health of the Sick.
Please keep me in your prayers at this time and be sure of my prayers for each one of you.
A happy Feast of the Annunciation to you,
Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh
In the coming weeks we will need volunteers to help the work of the parish to continue. If you are able to help out please complete the form below. Many Thanks
As you re no doubt aware, today, the Bishops of Scotland have followed the advice of the government and suspended public celebration of all Masses.
We will continue to Live-stream Mass each day at 10:00 am.
The church will be open each day for private prayer form 8:00 am until 10:00 am and from 10:30 am until 6:00 pm.. If you are coming into the church to pray, please wash your hands before and after your visit.
Sadly, due to the above suspension of public worship and the closure or our schools, we will have to postpone both First Confessions and First Holy Communion. I know this will be a great disappointment but God -willing we will reschedule for sometime in the new school year. It is only right that we can celebrate these important events with friends, family and the parish community.
At present communion may still be taken to the sick and housebound, taking all Government Hygiene precautions into consideration, especially hand washing before and after giving Holy Communion. Minsters who are over 70, or have underlying conditions should not be taking Communion to the sick and housebound. Please also phone ahead to make sure its safe to visit.
Baptism, Weddings and Funerals for the time being may be celebrated , but privately, that is with only immediate family in attendance, and in keeping with Government hygiene precautions. The priest dealing with any of these will give fuller explanations.
In due course we will endeavour to share useful resources to sustain our faith in these challenging times. In the meantime, please check out www.formed.org once you have registered its like Catholic Netflix and a library all in one,and it free!
Please pass on the above information to anyone you know who does not have Facebook or internet access.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. Remember to keep yourself safe and protect the safety of others.
18th March 2020
Pastoral Letter and Statement of the Scottish Bishops re. Covid-19 Virus
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
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
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 ask you to pray for the sick, those caring for them, for those in positions of responsibility
with difficult decisions to make, indeed for our whole country and the entire human family.
Most of all, we are being asked to put our trust in the living God who has created everything
to be and to flourish and whose providence guides the course of world events. We put our
trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and the true physician of our souls and
During this Lent, especially, let us all take the opportunity to deepen our relationship with
God. As your bishops and with our priests and deacons, we assure you of our continuing
commitment to your spiritual, pastoral and sacramental needs.
We want to maintain and foster the life of faith in every way we can, while also being
informed by the advice and guidance of Government and health professionals. Over the
centuries the Church has often been a source of comfort in times of trial and transformed
sadness and fear into confidence and peace. We want the same to happen now.
Given the latest official advice to reduce the spread of Covid-19, 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 19th March, the feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal
Church, after all Masses. 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 for those who care for them.
However, 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
parishes in our country which have that facility.
Our celebration of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum may indeed be curtailed by this
government advice and we will seek means of celebrating those most important three days of
the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil online so that they may be
accessible in your own home. We will have the opportunity to be with one another in spirit
and in prayer. Moreover, the Holy Father, Pope Francis will be celebrating the Sacred
Triduum online from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and that celebration will unite us in prayer
with all Catholics throughout the world.
We ask you to join with all the Churches in a National Day of Prayer this Sunday 22nd
March, Mothering Sunday. It seems appropriate that as Catholics we pray together the
Rosary, the prayer of our Blessed Mother Mary, at 12 noon, asking Her intercession for our
country and our world in this time of need.
On this coming Sunday also we were due to have our collection for the SCIAF Lenten
Appeal, and it would be good if we could still show our concern for the poorest in the world,
even in our own time of need, by sending our donations to SCIAF or making them on-line to
the SCIAF Wee Box Appeal at www.sciaf.org.uk.”
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
We entrust all of you, especially those already afflicted by the virus and all health care
professionals, to the care of Our Lady of Lourdes, Health of the Sick.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
- Hugh Gilbert
Bishop of Aberdeen, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
- Leo Cushley
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
- Philip Tartaglia
Archbishop of Glasgow
- Joseph Toal
Bishop of Motherwell
- Stephen Robson
Bishop of Dunkeld
- John Keenan
Bishop of Paisley
- William Nolan
Bishop of Galloway
- Brian McGee
Bishop of Argyll and the Isles
St Mary’s University, Gillis Campus, Edinburgh
During Lent we try to find ways to strip back and simplify our lives. It seems natural to me that one offshoot of such a process of stripping back, of simplification, will be an added degree of reflection. Freeing ourselves from various indulgences and vanities, which can consume our time and energy to not much good effect, we have the chance to take a deep breath; to think about the direction of our lives and about how we might live more purposefully, as more committed Christians.
With this in mind I am very pleased to tell you about a development that I hope will give all of us in the Archdiocese an opportunity to live more committed lives as Christians, enabling us to understand the Word of God more deeply and to share that Word with our neighbours with greater confidence and deeper vigour.
Later this year, in a joint venture with the Archdiocese, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, the leading Catholic university in the United Kingdom, will open a new campus in Edinburgh at the Gillis Centre, whose facilities I have made available for their use.
For over a century and a half, the Gillis Centre site was home to St Margaret’s Convent and School and, more briefly, to the senior seminary of the Archdiocese. It is, I believe, a cause for great rejoicing that this site will soon resume a prominent role in the provision and advancement of Catholic education in Scotland.
St Mary’s University has long been a beacon of excellence in Catholic education. It was founded as a teacher training college by the Catholic Poor Schools Committee in 1850; and it has never abandoned this mission to bring the benefits of education to where they are most needed. Indeed, this mission has flourished, and St Mary’s is widely recognized as one of the very best providers of teacher training in the country. Equally, St Mary’s has its own Institute of Theology, as well as research centres devoted to the study of, among other things, modern slavery, theological literacy, bioethics, and religion and society.
For all of these reasons, there is no doubt in my mind that our partnership with St Mary’s will create an invaluable addition to the Church in Scotland – invaluable, above all, for what it can offer to you, our Catholic lay men and women. I have written to you previously about how you, as lay Catholics, through your words and actions, your presence and witness, are called to permeate society with the grace and truth of Christ. The arrangement that we have made with St Mary’s will provide an invaluable means for Catholics to grow in the knowledge and love of their faith. In this way we are also responding to Pope Francis’ call to invest in the intellectual formation of the laity, and the evangelization of professional and intellectual life.
I want to encourage you all, therefore, to think seriously about the opportunities that will become available when St Mary’s opens its doors at the Gillis Centre later this year. From September, at Gillis, there will be a programme of part-time courses in theology and Catholic education. Information on these is now available on the St Mary’s University website. If you are a teacher or a leader in a Catholic school, or if you are a graduate keen to return to study in ways that will deepen your faith and strengthen your capacity to serve the Church and the world, or if you have friends or relatives who belong to either of these groups, please think about the new opportunities that will soon unfold here in our Archdiocese. And please spread the word.
The riches of our faith, and of the Catholic intellectual tradition, are enormous. Together, let us make the most of what our friends at St Mary’s will soon lay at our feet here in Edinburgh.
With my prayers for you all in this holy season of Lent and asking that you pray for me, I am Yours sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh
It has been announced by the Scottish Government that as of 13 March anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, however mild should self-isolate for 7 days.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of:
- new continuous cough and/or
- high temperature
If symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days then people should be advised to phone their GP or NHS24 (111). Public Health England (PHE) have produced advice for people who have symptoms and are self-isolating which can be viewed on their website.
Latest Guideline form the Archdiocese
DO NOT ATTEND CHURCH if you are showing any symptoms at all or have been in recent contact with someone known to be a carrier.
Currently there is no obligation to attend church if you are over 80 years of age or over 60 with underlying illness or if you have very young children in your family.
Be safe yourself and remember your responsibility to others.
We are now well on our way with Divine Renovation. The Team have had 2 sessions with our Coach, Bill and we are now closer to firming up our Vision for St Francis Xavier’s.
Please continue to pray for the success of Divine renovation within our own parish and indeed in the many parishes throughout the world who are on the same journey.