In a Pastoral Letter to be read in all parishes on the 1st Sunday of Advent (28th November 2021), the Bishops of Scotland are encouraging all the Catholic faithful “to renew their covenant with the Church and her worship”.
In March 2020, when the lockdown imposed to protect us from the worsening effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was at its height, the normal obligation on Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays and Holidays of Obligation was suspended across the Dioceses and parishes of Scotland. As the pandemic continued – occasionally giving us cause for hope that it was passing, but also, at times, tightening its grip on us – those obligations remained suspended, largely because of legal restrictions on numbers allowed to gather for worship in churches but also in order to prevent people feeling under pressure to return to more crowded situations when they might have felt it still unsafe to do so, even after restrictions on attendance were lifted.
Now, however, with many people vaccinated, with safety and hygiene protocols routinely in place and recognising that across many areas of life – schools, workplaces, sport and social life – people are resuming their familiar activities, the Bishops have felt it may well now be time to resume our regular sacramental and liturgical practices.
With Christmas Day falling on a Saturday this year, the following day is the Sunday when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. In their letter, the Bishops “strongly encourage” the Catholic faithful to attend Mass on both days, or at least once that weekend. Then,saving any serious worsening of the pandemic in Scotland, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation will be reinstated from Sunday 2nd January 2022, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
In accordance with the common teaching of the Church this obligation does not bind those in ill health or those otherwise impeded from attending Mass. Nor, in the context of Covid, does it bind those showing symptoms of the virus or with underlying health conditions, or those with responsibilities for people in need of special care.