30 April 2020, The Tablet

Priests doing 'car park confessions' during lockdown

Priests doing 'car park confessions' during lockdown

Bishop of Plymouth Mark O'Toole

A Catholic bishop has described how priests are adapting to life in lockdown, with online Masses, "car park confessions" and more.

Bishop of Plymouth Mark O'Toole made his comments in his latest pastoral letter, when he also described the carers who looked after his mother in hospital as "presenting the face of Christ the servant".

Bishop O'Toole said his mother recently became very sick with Covid-19, and described the care she received.

He said: “It is doctors, nurses, cleaners, carers, the Catholic chaplain, and support staff, who are presenting the face of Christ the Servant to our family in these days.”

In reaching out to the isolated and most vulnerable, all were proclaiming and celebrating their faith, he said.

"These deeds of love, ranged from calling or visiting vulnerable people, to practical support for shopping, to the work being carried out in Catholic schools, supporting children of key workers, or bringing food to vulnerable children at home."

Although churches are closed for public prayer and worship, priests are continuing to celebrate mass, on their own, in their parish churches, and praying for the Church and for the world. 

One of these priests had written to him, stating: “The prayers of the Mass which I utter are my prayers which I must pray in faith, hope and love. Of course, this is also true in every celebration at which others are present, but when one is alone, there is no hiding away: one is metaphorically naked before God as Jesus was literally on the Cross. My words really have to be his words: this is my body.”

In all these different moments of outreach, and of prayer, Bishop Mark stressed that people were fulfilling the command of Jesus on the night before He died, when he washed His disciples feet, and said to them, “I have given you an example for you to copy what I have done”.   This “message is for us, too”, the Bishop said, as he invited everybody to continue “to be like Christ the Servant.”

And he said that the Church's work was continuing in creative ways: "There has been an amazing growth in the use of social media to experience Mass online, and to pray through live streaming and YouTube. Thousands of people have been supported and encouraged through these messages of hope with more people attending ‘virtual’ masses than we anticipated. We must hold on to some of this presence in online platforms, after ‘lockdown’ has been lifted.

"Some parishes are using Zoom and Skype to ‘gather’ and share experience and to talk about their faith. Pastoral care continues and in some creative ways – including opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance (whilst respecting social distancing using the car park)."


The Tablet has a regularly updated page for help during the coronavirus pandemic, Isolated but not Alone.

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