BY Peter Diamond | May 6 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Scottish bishops reveal new Coronavirus working group chaired by lay Catholic

Bishop Gilbert said: "The bishops are keen to benefit from the advice of experts in medicine and public health and are very grateful to Sir Harry Burns for agreeing to chair our Working Group."

Catholic bishops are calling on the expertise of a lay Catholic and former chief medical officer for Scotland as they unveiled a nationwide working group on phased reopening of churches.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has announced the formation of a Covid-19 Working Group, which will begin work on the creation of an Infection Control Protocol to govern the phased reopening of churches for public worship at an early and safe opportunity, in accordance with legislation and the current Scottish Government guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.

Infection Control

The precautions and requirements to allow Catholic churches to be used for public worship, will be studied carefully and proposed Infection Control Protocols presented to the Scottish Government.

The Working Group will be chaired by Sir Harry Burns, Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer and Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde. Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland will also sit on the group.

Bishop Gilbert of Aberdeen Diocese, said: “Our lives remain greatly restricted by this crisis in a way that is painful and difficult for us as Christians.

Working Group

“As bishops, we want to offer our thanks to our clergy, religious and laity for their patience and forbearance during these testing times.”

“Throughout these weeks of lockdown, there have been many signs of hope and faith and it is in the hope that we will recover, that we must plan for the future and find a safe pathway to the resumption of our sacramental life,” added Bishop Hugh, who welcomed the input of Sir Harry Burns.

“The bishops are keen to benefit from the advice of experts in medicine and public health and are very grateful to Sir Harry Burns for agreeing to chair our Working Group.

“In the interests of everyone’s safety we will proceed cautiously and carefully in step with public health guidance.”

Proactive bishops

Commenting on the group, Sir Harry, who was educated as a boy at St Aloysius College, Glasgow said: “The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires innovative and informed thinking.

“I am glad that the Catholic Bishops are acting proactively to develop Infection Control measures and delighted to be able to contribute to that work.”

Sir Harry, who was Chief Medical Officer from 2005 to 2014, insists the reinstallation of public prayer will happen in a phased manner.

“The reopening of churches and the reintroduction of public worship will happen in a phased way, always taking account of best infection control practice and guidelines on social distancing and hygiene,” Sir Harry added.

Membership

The full membership of the COVID-19 working group is shown below:

Sir Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

Fr Gerard Maguiness, general secretary to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

Canon Thomas Boyle, St. Mary’s Parish, Greenock

Canon Thomas Shields, St. Fillan’s Parish, Crief

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office

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