28 marca, 2020


 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

these provisions.

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

finger towel.

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

the sacrament.

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. Funerals

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

amended further.

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