COVID-19 – Pastoral Implications

A Pathway Towards Renewal

This page offers parish clergy some of the information made available by the bishops as our parishes and churches prepare to re-emerge from the “lockdown” response to the corono virus pandemic in Scotland. Most of what is found here can also be found elsewhere, in particular on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (, Covid-19 advice)

Update: Additional Liturgical Guidance (June 2021)

As many parts of Scotland move into Levels 1 and 2 of the Government’s protocols, the Scottish Bishops have issued renewed guidance on what this means for the celebration of Mass and other liturgies in our churches.

In some aspects, the guidance remains unchanged (use of facemasks, safety distancing, limited numbers attending, etc). However, some aspects are subject to a degree of relaxation (sacristans and altar servers, praying the Gloria and Creed, the possibility of an Offertory procession, etc). All are subject to what seems most appropriate for the specific church building and space available.

Click below to dowload the full text of the guidance (June 2021).

Note that parishes in areas designated as being in Level 3 are expected to follow the previous guidelines and restrictions until further relaxation is introduced.

Update: Bishops’ Pastoral Letter (December 2020)

Click the link for the Pastoral Letter – “Light Shines in Darkness” – written by the Bishops of Scotland and distributed to clergy and parishes in late 2020. In it they call for patience and perseverance in the face of the ongoing pandemic situation, a situation nobody thought would last as long as it has. They also deal with the question of the prospective vaccine which might bring an end to the restrictions, but which raises some ethical issues about which Catholics may need reassurance.

Update: Newsletter August 2020

The Bishops Conference “Pastoral Ministry Working Group” published a newsletter on the 26th August 2020, with some insights, advice and shared good practice for parishes as we continue to get to grips with the restrictions in place during the period of pandemic and their implications for our pastoral life and ministry.

In part based on a survey to which parishes were invited to contribute during July, it also highlights some useful strategies parishes are using in order to maximise their outreach and accommodation of parishioners for Masses and other celebrations.

The Newsletter can be accessed here.

General Advice

“For several weeks now, we have all been living through something we did not expect and for which we had no time to prepare ourselves, no real precedents to guide us, no previous experience to reassure us. A microscopic virus has thrown the whole world into disarray, including our normal Catholic life.
In these circumstances we, the Bishops of Scotland, want to address you as we are reminded that Jesus alone is our great Hope.

Bishops of Scotland, 5th June 2020

We want to support you and are very aware that you know the situations within your own parishes. Therefore, you are well placed to provide the circumstances in which your church can resume activities within infection control recommendations. In addition, we want to provide an avenue for you to ask questions and provide feedback about where you would like further guidance.
In short, we advise that, at present: a) cleaning and disinfecting of church buildings must be observed; b) 2m physical distancing must be observed; c) increased hand washing should be observed and hand sanitiser should be available and utilised
; d) face coverings must be worn at all times within church buildings (except by the priest within liturgical services when at least 2m of physical distance is possible).

COVID-19 Advisory Group, Bishops’ COnference of Scotland

“This document has been drafted to provide guidance and support to clergy and parishioners as they prepare for the phased reopening of our parishes. The guidelines which follow reflect advice given in the Scottish Government’s Route Map on the gradual removal of restrictions.
Diocesan Coordinators for Reopening can be contacted for local help and guidance.
The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains dispensed until further notice. The faithful are asked to consider carefully whether or not they should return in the early phases. Upholding the church’s duty of care to elderly clergy, together with social distancing reductions in capacity, will mean that the availability of Mass is likely to be reduced in many areas and may not be available at all in some parishes. Each parish is asked to consider these guidelines to assist them in deciding the readiness of the parish as our country moves into each of the four phases of the route map.”

“Preparing for the Re-Opening of Churches”, June 2020

“This document takes account of the Scottish Government’s phased easing
of social restrictions and offers advice on how parishes can safely undertake a range of pastoral ministry actions at each phase of easing. It also advises on how parishes should prepare for the following phase. It is planned that further support, advice and resources will be provided to
assist parishes as they work to re-build their pastoral activity in the longer term.”

“Embracing Hope” June 2020

How ready is your church to re-open?

The Bishops advisory groups have created a “self-evaluation” tool to help parishes and clergy to work out how prepared their parish is for the re-opening of their church. It is an online tool and will appear in a separate window.

Click here


This resource is offered as a help for those who wish to remain united in prayer with their parish even though Masses cannot be celebrated publicly. It includes the prayer of St Alphonsus for a “Spiritual Communion” and other resources including the prayer of Pope Francis during the time of pandemic. It can be made available online or via other media.