BCOS Meeting 7 September 2020
The meeting was held over two sessions via Teams. All members of the Bishops’ Conference participated. Sir Harry Burns contributed for a part of the morning session which addressed in detail the implications of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on places of worship.
In his contribution, Sir Harry advised that the existing limits on maximum attendance of 50 for Mass and 20 for Weddings and Funerals were without scientific foundation and he could see no logical reason for them. Following a wide-ranging discussion on this, it was clear that this perspective was unanimously held. Sir Harry advised that he would raise the matter with officials and ministers in the coming days and report back to the conference. (Other representatives of the Conference have raised similar points). He also spoke of the possible trajectory of the virus over the next few months, advising that the concerns of the Government’s scientific advisors, were that a rise in positive tests among younger people, who are unlikely to require hospitalisation, at present could in the coming weeks spread to the elderly and vulnerable, with serious consequences for the NHS. He updated the bishops on progress being made towards a vaccine and suggested the timescales involved were likely to mean a viable vaccine could be available by December for use early in 2021.
The bishops thanked Sir Harry for his contributions and advice.
Archbishop Cushley updated the conference on the ongoing discussions about the disposal of assets belonging to ACTS. He described three options which had been tabled at a previous meeting of the successor body to ACTS, the Scottish Christian Leaders Forum (SCLF) after some debate a fourth option was proposed and received wide support, it was that any remaining funds be dispersed on a pro rata basis to the founding members of ACTS. Archbishop Cushley undertook to take this position back to the SCLF.
A discussion on a number of liturgical matters followed, led by Bishop Gilbert and based upon his “Report on Matters Liturgical to the Bishops Conference” which covered: The final stage of proof-reading of the Ordo, the proposal that St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, the first canonised Australian saint, be kept as an optional memorial in the Scottish Proper of Saints, the proposal that, given the devotion in Scotland, the optional memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February, be raised to the status of an obligatory memorial. The third change proposed to the Scottish Proper of Saints was the insertion of St John Henry Newman as an optional memorial. All these changes were endorsed.
The conference heard that the next meeting of the National Liturgical Commission will be in the second half of October and the next meeting of ICEL was scheduled for 8-12 February 2021.
Bishop Gilbert proposed that a renewed emphasis on the Eucharist would be opportune. This was agreed with. There was discussion over the modality, timing and preparatory work required for this. A discussion followed on the timing and the detail of such a move with one of the bishops agreeing to prepare a basic initial text on this subject.
Bishop Keenan presented a report on Seminary Provision proposing a range of options to be researched in terms of viability as serious options for the formation of men for the Priesthood. At the November BCOS Meeting each option would be discussed, in the light of the information provided, with a view to discerning the 3 most viable options. There would then be consultation on these options before a final decision is made by the Bishops in February/March 2021. Bishop Keenan also presented a report on Transitional Deacons and led a lively discussion on aspects of the model of priestly formation proposed by the Congregation for the Clergy and the recent Ratio.
On behalf of the Pastoral Ministry Group, Michael McGrath presented the results of a parish survey on how parish priests have dealt with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop McGee presented a report on the ongoing review of the BCOS structure, examining its agencies and commissions in a detailed way. The work of this review had been affected by the pandemic and was now restarting. The review began with the General Secretariat, and will move on to all agencies. The review consists of two stages. The first stage examines each particular agency’s vision and will be led by the associated Bishop President. It will examine their work: their aims, achievements, aspirations, personnel and resourcing. The second stage, will review the particular posts required for agencies to contribute effectively to the work of the Church at a national level.
Bishop Nolan reported that the Bishop of Salford had approached BCOS on behalf of CBCEW with a request that BCOS nominate a member to a working party set up to calculate the church’s carbon footprint. There was a discussion on a possible candidate for this position.
Bishop Toal presented a suggestion from the Trustees of the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust, that two new trustees be appointed. There was agreement that new trustees should be appointed. Further details on these appointments to be released in due course.
The possibility of postponing the 250th anniversary of the Royal Scots College on 31 May 2021 was discussed in the hope that normal air travel may be possible by that time.
The meeting ended at 4pm.