Scotland's National Catholic magazine

Omicron wave unlikely to close churches

New restrictions and lockdowns loom but churches unlikely to be closed completely.

Churches here are unlikely to be closed in light of high rates of Omicron cases, primarily because of the court case earlier this year that found previous Church closures were unlawful.

The omicron variant of Covid-19 has caused a record number of cases in Mid December and deputy First Minister John Swinney has warned further restrictions may be introduced.

Anthony Horan, Director of the Scot- tish Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “The latest from the Scottish govern- ment is that there are no plans to ask us to close. I think the court case sets the bar higher if they wanted to try and close them again. They have to make sure it is proportionate, but that’s for them to think about.”

James Bundy, the Director of Operations for Freedom Declared Foundation, which promotes freedom of religion, stated: “I don’t think that they will close the churches again because of the court case. They tried to say that places of worship were not closed as you could still access them online. It was made clear that Catholics couldn’t receive Communion over the screen. Therefore, they were being denied the Sacrament. One of the key judgements in the court case was that they managed to adapt juries and the right to a fair trial [during the pandemic], and because they could adapt that human right, they should be able to adapt places of worship to be Covid secure.

“They have no evidence that there’s been a Covid outbreak in a place of worship, particularly in a church. Because of that I don’t think they’ll attempt to close churches over Christmas. But that doesn’t stop them putting in place further restrictions.”

This could lead to the introduction of two-metre spacing, for example, or limits on individual church capacities.

“The knock-on effect is that the Obligation [to attend Mass] comes back on January 2,” he said.

“Will priests be over- whelmed? Will the bishops change the obligation again? There are lots of questions to be asked regarding priests who celebrate Mass; how is their work- load going cope?”

The bishops are understood to be monitoring the situation in reference to whether the Obligation will still be re-introduced.

In their letter to announce the reintroduction of the Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, they said: “We have often been asked about rein- stating the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.

“In our fluid situation, this is not an easy judgment to make. So, saving any serious worsening of the situation, we believe that Christmastide provides an opportune moment to restore the obligation.”

Concerns have been raised over the possible introduction of a vaccine passport requirement to attend church.

John Mason, MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, stated: “There is no suggestion of closing churches at the moment.

“On vaccine passports, I asked John Swinney about this at a committee and he was clear that they have discussed expansion of the passport scheme but decided against it, at least for now.”

Last December, the Council for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document titled ‘Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines’. In it, the letter states that ‘practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.’

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