LONDON, England — The metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales acknowledged the pain of Catholics who cannot receive the Sacraments because of the coronavirus lockdown in a message issued Friday.
In the message, entitled “A People who Hope in Christ”, published May 1, the archbishops said that while livestreamed Masses nourished faith, they were no substitute for public liturgies.
“None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves,” they wrote. “While the livestreaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”
Writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the five archbishops continued: “Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognizes the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts.”
“We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
“The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and well-being.’ We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.”
Nevertheless, the archbishops said, the Catholic community had to play its part in preserving life and seeking the common good amid the pandemic. Restrictions on public liturgies would therefore have to remain in place until they are lifted by the government.
The U.K. is among the countries worst affected by the pandemic. With a population of 67 million, the U.K has had more than 172,000 documented coronavirus cases and 26,700 deaths as of May 1, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The archbishops emphasized that Church officials were in talks with public health agencies and the government about the reopening of churches, which were closed March 24.
“As the government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life step by step,” they said.
“This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is shared by so many volunteers from our communities...”
“Together with Catholics across England and Wales, we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.”
The message was signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff and Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark.
The archbishops concluded: “May the peace of the risen Lord reign in our hearts and homes as we look forward to the day we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the Sacrifice of Praise.”