By Liz Dodd in THE TABLET, 18 March 2020

The life of the Church goes on despite the suspension of public Masses, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said on the day that the Church took the unprecedented decision to stop all public liturgies to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking to The Tablet after the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced the cessation of public Masses for the foreseeable future, Cardinal Nichols said he knew that Catholics would be disturbed and upset by the news, and expressed his solidarity with them.

But he emphasised that riches of the Church, its rhythms of prayer and service, would continue, and said that the priority was protecting the most vulnerable.

“These are going to be weeks in which we have to reach deeper as a people of faith so the bonds between us that we express publicly at the Mass are, as it were, brought up to the surface in other ways,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of Catholics continuing to join in the spiritual life of the Church.

“People can follow the Mass online, they can sit together as a family and participate, and we can all learn again how to make an Act of Spiritual Communion,” he said. “The life of the Church goes on, just not in the public Masses. We have to turn to the rhythms of the spiritual life of the Church. I hope also that the Church’s rhythms of charity will increase, and people will pay attention to those in need, even if that’s simply keeping in touch with people who are isolated over Skype.”

Cardinal Nichols said that the decision to stop public worship was unprecedented, even in wartime.

“In the Second World War, in that time of conflict, the enemy was without. Now the enemy is, in a sense, within,” he said. “So we have to adopt these new patterns to protect the vulnerable, to minimise peoples’ exposure to the virus, and to support the NHS. Those are proper duties to observe, and not to do so would be genuinely negligent.

“We have to observe these three things with a spirit of self sacrifice,” he said. “Not publicly participating in the Mass is a big sacrifice. But we will find ways of digging deep, deeper into the spiritual reality of our lives, and drawing from that reality the riches that we experience in the external sacraments.

There’s a phrase: God is never limited by the sacraments. This is a time when we must make contact with those spiritual realities,” he added.

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