Dear Reverend Fathers, Deacons and Religious,
I am conscious that a considerable amount of information has been passed on to you over
the past couple of weeks from me and from others regarding the steps we are having to take
to protect our communities from the threat presented by the Covid-19 Coronavirus
Pandemic. All of this is happening at a fast pace and sometimes in ways which often seem
contrary to our pastoral instincts as priests, deacons and religious.
I know that you, like me, will want to do all that we can to live out our ministry in the most
effective and responsible way that we can during these difficult times. Remaining faithful
and close to Our Lord Jesus Christ and confident in the protection of His Blessed Mother, it
is essential that we remain united in our prayer for each other, care for one another and
continue to serve the People of God in whatever way we can.
The instruction from the public health authorities is very clear on the occasions during this
current period of quarantine when someone can leave home:
Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as
infrequent as possible.
One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members
of your household.
Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from
Whilst our pastoral instincts drive us to want to be close to and visit those we serve, we must
try in all our actions to model for others and our communities the responsible observance of
Therefore, following consultation among the Bishops, the Secretariat of the Bishops’
Conference has issued further instructions with regard to the celebration of the Sacraments
and the Holy Week Liturgies during the current restrictions resulting from the Covid-19
Coronavirus Pandemic. These instructions also take into account the two most recent
Decrees (I on 19th March and II on 25th March) issued by the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) with the mandate of the Supreme
Rather than send you multiple documents, I have tried for your ease of reference to compile
a summary of the instructions, the Decrees from the Holy See, and the now updated
provisions previously issued by me. This summary is as follows:
2…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
1. Closure of churches, chapels and church halls
In order to comply with the legitimate demands of the government and civil authorities,
and to protect the lives and well-being of the faithful and all citizens from the threat
presented by the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, the churches, chapels and associated
halls in the Diocese of Leeds were closed with effect from midnight of 23rd March 2020
and must remained closed to public access, without exception, until restrictions are lifted.
2. Removal of the Obligation to attend Holy Mass
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, having consulted the Ordinaries of the
Dioceses, agreed that because of the exceptional situation that all members of the Church
now face, the obligation for the faithful to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday or Holy day of
Obligation is removed, until further notice. The current pandemic is the “serious reason”
why this obligation does not apply at this time (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
3. Dispensation from Easter Duties
3.1 Many of the faithful will be aware of their Easter Duties; that is, to receive Holy
Communion during the Easter Season and by custom, to celebrate the Sacrament of
Reconciliation beforehand. The Code of Canon Law (can. 920) says “…each of the
faithful is obliged to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. This precept must be
fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during
the year.” The requirement for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
comes from the need to be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion (can. 916).
3.2 As it is not possible for the faithful to receive Holy Communion at this time and
possibly for some time ahead, the Bishops of England and Wales have dispensed the
Easter Duties for the year 2020, so that the consciences of people may be reassured
and any scruples which they have be eased.
4. Celebrations of Holy Mass
4.1 Priests (parish priests and assistant priests) who hold parochial office should continue
to celebrate Mass in a church within their parish without the faithful on a daily basis.
4.2 The continuing celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass ensures that the faithful can
join in spiritual communion with the bishop and priests of the Church. The Catechism
of the Catholic Church (§1364) states: “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which
3…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
‚Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is
carried out”. Daily liturgical resources for those at home to make a ‘Spiritual
Communion’ are available on our diocesan website. Resources are also available on
the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales website.
5. While the current quarantine restrictions remain in place, the church or chapel used
should not be open at any time to people1 who are not residents of the shared
5.1 The celebration of Holy Mass during Holy Week must not include concelebration
5.2 Before the celebration, the celebrant should prepare for himself the paten with
the altar bread for his own communion and the chalice.
5.3 A separate ciborium should also be prepared with sufficient altar breads for the
communion at the celebration of any other communicants resident in the same
5.3.3 Apart from the celebrant, any other sacred ministers resident in the same
household may assist in choir and together with other residents may receive
Holy Communion under one kind only.
5.3.4 Immediately, before distributing Holy Communion, the celebrant should ensure
that he washes/sanitises his hands, giving particular attention to the fingers of
the hand he will use to administer the Sacred Host, and dries them with a clean
5.3.5 The celebrant should ensure he places the Sacred Host in the hand of the
communicant in such a way that he does not touch the communicant’s hands.
5.3.6 The celebrant alone should then purify the sacred vessels.
6 The advice of the health authorities concerning ‘social/physical distancing’ during the
celebration, the omission of the sign of peace, the washing and sanitising of hands
before and after the celebration, etc. should be observed.
1 The one exception to this will be when I celebrate Holy Mass for certain significant days and the Liturgies of
Holy Week in the Cathedral church, and join the Cathedral clergy only, to provide a focus of unity for the
clergy and faithful, and for all those participating through the live-streaming of the celebrations. This has been agreed by the bishops of England and Wales for the celebration of the liturgy by bishops in their Cathedral churches, in accord with the Decrees mandated by the Holy Father. Cf. CDWDS Decree II. This is the understanding of the Decree which has been agreed by the bishops.
7. Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage
The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage, as well as celebrations of First
Holy Communion and First Reconciliation, are to be deferred until such time that the
public health advice is that the quarantine and restrictions on peoples movement from
their homes is lifted and/or that congregations of family and friends can gather safely.
8. Sacrament of Reconciliation
8.1 The inability to respond to a person’s request to access the Sacrament of
Reconciliation goes very much against all our instincts as priests and our desire to
bring the Lord’s mercy to those who seek it. We cannot though, in this period of
quarantine as well as the restrictions on travel and gathering together, provide a
responsible and safe access to this Sacrament. For the safety of the penitent and
ourselves at this time, the normal circumstances under which we can offer the
Sacrament of Reconciliation to the faithful are almost entirely absent.
8.2 Recently, the Holy Father Pope Francis said something in a homily which may help
someone who is unable to go to confession at this time: “I know that many of you go to
confession before Easter… Many will say to me: ‘But Father…I can’t leave the house and I
want to make my peace with the Lord…How can I do that unless I find a priest’? …Do what
5…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
the catechism says. It’s very clear. If you don’t find a priest to go to confession, speak to God.
He’s your Father. Tell Him the truth: ‘Lord. I did this and this and this. Pardon me.’ Ask His
forgiveness with all your heart with an act of contrition, and promise Him, ‘afterward I will go
to confession.’ You will return to God’s grace immediately.”
8.3 The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§1452) also says: “When it arises from a love by
which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ – contrition of charity. Such
contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm
resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”
8.4 Requests for individual confession are almost impossible to meet within the
restrictions we are obliged to follow for the safety of penitents at this time. For this
reason, it is deemed both reasonable and pastorally responsible for a priest to refuse a
request for individual confession in these exceptional times. This will not be an easy
thing for us to do. In these circumstances we must do all we can to explain to the
penitent what the Church says they can and should do.
Therefore, the Bishops of England and Wales have asked that all who desire to receive
the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be encouraged and helped to make a Perfect
Act of Contrition at this time.
An Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to
do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend,
with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our
Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
It would be good also, if possible, to bring the penitent’s attention to the Plenary
Indulgence referred to in 14 below.
8.5 Please note that a penitent’s confession cannot be heard, nor can absolution be given,
over the telephone or using any other electronic social or communication media.
8.6 Services of General Absolution cannot be held as these involve travel and the
gathering of people.
9. Pastoral Visits, Care for the Sick and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
9.1 During this period of quarantine and restriction on unnecessary travel, no pastoral
visits should be made by clergy to the homes of parishioners (except as in 9.4 below).
Neither should visits be made to Catholic schools which have remained open or to
other institutions. Clergy can offer telephone support either in person or with the
assistance of the lay faithful (please refer to the ‘Community Response Service’ being
provided by Catholic Care).
9.2 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and members of the St Vincent de Paul
Society are encouraged to make regular telephone contact with the sick and
housebound and offer prayers, particularly with those parishioners they world
normally visit in person.
6…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
9.3 Some hospitals are stopping visits from all clergy or restricting visits to their officially
registered chaplains only. The Vicar General will continue to consult with the Deans
to establish a backup list of priests known to the hospitals to enable visits to continue
if the registered chaplain becomes unavailable. I am very grateful to those priests who
have already agreed to act in this capacity.
9.4 Visits to homes to administer the Sacrament of Baptism and the Anointing of the Sick
to those who are in imminent danger of death (in extremis) are permitted, observing
the necessary hygiene and distancing regulations. Such ministry is considered an
essential work, for which travel is justifiable.
9.5 Clergy who have received letters from the NHS must follow the instructions in the
letter strictly, and make their ministry one of prayer, and offering support by
telephone or internet. Similarly, priests over 70 years of age, or priests who have
particular underlying health conditions which make them more vulnerable to the
risks of contracting the Covid-19 Coronavirus, should not undertake the visits in 9.2
above but refer them to the Dean (or if necessary to the Vicar General) who will
arrange for them to be celebrated by other priests. Whichever priest attends the sick
person, he must be sure not to have any underlying medical condition that could
compromise his own well-being.
9.6 The following guidelines should be observed for the administration of the Sacrament
of the Anointing of the Sick to those suffering from Conid-19 Coronavirus in
9.5.1 As in 9.2 above, in consultation with the Dean, the Vicar General will ensure that
a rota is in place so that a priest is available for emergencies (see 9.4 above).
9.5.2 Priests will only be able to visit the sick in hospitals when arrangements for this
are permitted by the relevant hospital or health authority.
9.5.3 Before visiting the patient, priests must inform the ward staff. Priests must put
on the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and follow any post-visit
cleansing indicated by the hospital.
9.5.4 Priests must not take books or oil stocks with them into the hospital. If required,
the text for the rite of anointing should be printed on a sheet of paper which
must be left in the clinical waste receptacle on the ward before leaving the
9.5.5 For the anointing the sick, the priest should prepare a cotton bud with the Oil of
the Sick and place it in a small disposable bag to take with them to the hospital.
If there is more than one person to be anointed, a separate cotton bud should be
prepared as above for each person. One end of the cotton bud to anoint the head
and the other to anoint the hands of the sick person. Both the cotton bud and the
disposable bag must be left in the clinical waste at the hospital for incineration.
9.5.6 The priest extends his hands over the sick person for the laying on of hands,
without physical contact. This has been confirmed as a valid mode of celebrating
7…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
9.5.7 Viaticum cannot be given within the hygiene restrictions necessary for the care
and treatment of patients with Covid-19. Holy Communion will be a ‘Spiritual
10.1 At this time, no funeral services are to be celebrated in churches or chapels of the
diocese. Under the current national provisions, funeral services can take place at the
graveside or at a crematorium chapel3 within requirements laid down by the
cemetery or crematorium authorities. A brief funeral service (but not a Funeral Mass
or a full Funeral Liturgy) may also be celebrated at a Funeral Director’s private
chapel. At all such services, clergy must follow the public health authority
guidelines on social/physical distancing. In chapels located in crematoria or on a
Funeral Director’s property, clergy must be assured that the facility for handwashing/sanitising will be provided for them at the premises.
10.2 Funeral services should not be conducted by priests or deacons over 70 years of age
or whose underlying health conditions make them vulnerable to the Covid-19
Coronavirus. Requests for services made to them should be referred to the Dean (or
if necessary to the Vicar General) who will arrange for them to be celebrated by
other clergy. The bodies of the deceased must not be taken to churches or chapels of
the diocese for resting overnight before a cremation or a graveside committal.
10.3 All arrangements for funerals should be made in collaboration with the Funeral
Directors appointed by the family of the deceased.
10.4 We need to be as supportive as we can to the faithful in their time of mourning and
let them know what the possibilities are for the funeral arrangements of their loved
ones. Clearly, there is the possibility of a Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy without
the presence of the body of the deceased that can be celebrated in the church(es) of
your parish at a time when the current restrictions on public and social gatherings
have been lifted.
10.5 If the body of the deceased is to be cremated, permission will be given to celebrate a
Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy with the cremated ashes of the deceased present at
a time when the current restrictions on public and social gatherings have been lifted.
This will allow a ‘Direct Cremation’ (which is not attended by mourners and has no
service) to proceed and the cremated remains retained by the family or the funeral
directors until the day of the Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy, and the burial of the
ashes takes place. Guidelines with liturgical instructions for a ‘Funeral Liturgy with
Cremated Remains Present’ will be made available in due course. Where local
authorities are restricting cremations to ‘Direct Cremation’, I hope that this provision
3 Clergy should be aware that in order to manage the impact of Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic some local
authorities are no longer permitting funeral services in the chapels of their crematoria or cemetery chapels.
Instead, ‘Direct cremation’ (which is not attended by mourners and involves no service) is being introduced
and graveside services only are being allowed for burials.
8…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
will provide some pastoral comfort to the family of the deceased, knowing that a
Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy arranged for the future will be able to include the
cremated bodily remains of their loved ones being present.
10.6 Should some local authorities continue to allow the provision of a funeral service at
their crematoria at the peak of the pandemic, the Vicar General will consult with the
clergy to draw up a rota of priests or deacons to cover this.
11. Holy Week
The arrangements for the celebration of the liturgies in Holy Week without the presence
of the faithful are as follows:
11.1 Palm Sunday
“The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred
buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted;
in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.” (CDWDS Decree II)
I plan to celebrate Holy Mass in the Cathedral at 11:00am on Palm Sunday, 5th April.
At the Masses celebrated by priests in their parish churches, all of the palms should
be blessed. The blessed palms can then be made available to the faithful in your
parish to take home at a time when the current restrictions on public and social
gatherings has been lifted.
11.2 Chrism Mass
Although the CDWDS Decree provides for the possibility of the Chrism Mass being
deferred to a another date, the Bishops of England and Wales consider that the
symbolism of the blessing of oils during Holy Week should not be lost and that a
simplified celebration should take place in the Cathedrals. The blessed Oil of
Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and the Consecrated Oil of Chrism can then be
distributed after restrictions relating to the viral pandemic are relaxed.
Consequently, I plan to celebrate the Mass of Chrism in the Cathedral at 10:30am on
Holy Thursday, 9th April 2020. A text is being prepared for priests to enable them to
make a personal renewal of their priestly promises; this will be circulated in due
course. I hope that the timing of the celebration will permit clergy, religious and the
faithful to participate through the live-streaming of the Mass that will be available
online for those who have the facility to access this.
11.3 Mass of the Lord’s Supper
“The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the
Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the
tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence
of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.” (CDWDS Decree II)
I plan to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the Cathedral at 7:00pm on Holy
Thursday, 9th April.
9…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
11.4 Good Friday
“In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those
who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum). The adoration of
the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.” (CDWDS Decree II)
Special intentions for use in the Universal Prayer of Good Friday are being drafted
by the Department for Liturgy and Worship of the Bishops’ Conference; I will send
these to you once completed.
I plan to celebrate the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion in the Cathedral at 3:00pm on
Good Friday, 10th April.
11.5 Easter Vigil
“The Easter Vigil is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. At ‘The Solemn
Beginning of the Vigil or Lucenarium’ the preparation and lighting of the fire is omitted, the
Paschal Candle is lit, the procession is omitted and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)
follows. The ‘Liturgy of the Word’ then takes place. For the ‘Baptismal Liturgy’ only the
‘Renewal of Baptismal Promises’ is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum). The Liturgy of the
Eucharist then follows.” (CDWDS Decree I & II)
I plan to celebrate the Easter Vigil in the Cathedral at 8:00pm on Holy Saturday, 11th
11.6 Easter Sunday
I plan to celebrate Easter Day Mass in the Cathedral at 11:00am on Sunday, 12th
11.7 Prayer Resources for Holy Week for Families and Personal prayer
The Magnificat booklet for Holy Week is recommended as an excellent resource both
in printed form for those who already subscribe to it. The United States version has
kindly made online access to its publication free for the time being. This provides a
form of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, the daily Mass Readings, a daily
mediation and Saint of the Day: https://us.magnificat.net/free. Other resources to
support family and personal prayer can be found on the diocesan website.
12. Limitations Placed on the Ministry of Priests by the Current Restrictions
In the absence of their regular ministry, priests should devote themselves to the daily
celebration of Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, other forms of prayer and devotion
including Eucharistic Adoration where possible, reading and keeping in contact with the
community of the faithful they serve and their brother clergy by telephone and online
forms of communication.
14.1 On Friday 19th March 2020, the Apostolic Penitentiary published a Decree granting
special Indulgences to the sick, to their caregivers, friends and family, and those who
assist them by their prayers during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
14.2 The head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, His Eminence Cardinal Mauro Piacenza,
gave the context for the publication of the Decree: “We are living in a situation of
emergency: there are hospitals that are at risk of not being able to receive the sick; there are
sick people who are forced to live in isolation, and sadly, even to die without the comfort and
closeness of their loved ones; there are sick people who are lacking the closeness of a priest for
the Anointing of the Sick and for Confession. There are very many people in quarantine, and
entire cities in which the population remains closed up in their homes because of the norms
issued by the authorities to contain the contagion.”
14.3 The Decree offers a plenary indulgence to all people suffering from the virus who
are in hospitals or quarantined at home. It is also offered, under the same conditions,
to healthcare workers, family members, and caregivers. Furthermore, an indulgence
is also offered to all those who, during this pandemic, pray for it to end, pray for
those who are suffering, and (pray) for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.
The provisions of the Decree also extend to all the sick, because all those who are
hospitalized today are experiencing, in one way or another, the consequences of the
emergency on account of the pandemic.
11…./ Ad Clerum, Revised Provisions regarding the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, 27th March 2020
14.4 The conditions for receiving the grant of the indulgence are very simple. Cardinal
Piacenza says that: “The sick and their caregivers are asked to unite themselves spiritually,
wherever possible through the media, to the celebration of the Mass or the recitation of the
Rosary or the Stations of the Cross or other forms of devotion. If this is not possible, they are
asked to recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and an invocation to Mary. All others, those who
offer prayers for the souls of the dead, for those who suffer, and plead for an end to the
pandemic are asked, where possible, to visit the Most Holy Sacrament or to take part in
Eucharistic adoration. Alternatively, they can read the Holy Scriptures for at least half an
hour, or recite the Rosary or the Way of the Cross. As is evident to all, the recitation of
prayers and the reading of the Bible can be done without leaving home, and therefore in full
compliance with the rules to counter the spread of contagion.”
14.5 Those who are close to death and are not able to receive the Anointing of the Sick, or
to confess, or to receive Viaticum, are entrusted to Divine Mercy. The plenary
indulgence is granted to each of them, provided that they are duly disposed and
have regularly recited some prayer during their lifetime (in this case the Church
makes up for the three usual conditions required).
As I have stated previously, the instructions and guidance from the government and the
health authorities is constantly being updated to take account of the actions that we need to
undertake to limit the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus. Any future changes to these
instructions and guidance may require the provisions contained in this Ad clerum to be
Please do all that you can to comply with, and model for others, the good practice we must
all undertake to protect the lives and well-being of the faithful and all citizens.
I will do my utmost to keep you informed and up-to-date regarding the advice we must
follow for the life of the Church in these unparalleled times.
Let us continue to keep each close in prayer.
Assuring you of my prayers and for all those you serve in your ministry, I remain
Yours devotedly in the Lord
+ Marcus Stock
Bishop of Leeds