Catholics in a parish in the Nottingham diocese have been asked not to attend Mass if they are not vaccinated.
The Holy Family parish in East Nottingham said in its newsletter: “If you are not vaccinated and/or won’t wear a mask, please do not come to Mass.”
The parish has offered free masks to churchgoers and does not check the vaccination status of people attending Mass. Parish community coordinator Diane Williams said the aim was to protect members of the community from infection and hospitalisation.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Nottingham told The Tablet: “While many in the Catholic Church in England and Wales and beyond have been vocal in encouraging the faithful to receive the Covid-19 vaccine for their own protection and for the protection of others, this choice is ultimately a matter of individual conscience.”
They also said that the decision to decline the vaccine “should not be a barrier to receiving the sacraments or attending Mass”.
On face masks, the diocese says that “the law states that face coverings are mandatory during Mass unless you are exempt and we trust all of our parishes to ensure that this legal requirement is implemented with charity and courtesy”.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has stated that a person may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.
Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged people to take up Covid vaccinations and boosters when offered by the NHS.
As the UK recorded 150,000 Covid deaths on 8 January, a spokesperson for the bishops said: “Loss and isolation have been a tragic feature over the past two years. Every one of us has suffered from its effects, and we are reminded particularly of this collective and individual loss at this time as the government announces 150,000 dead from the Covid pandemic. May they rest in peace. This is a day of great sadness for so many people, families and communities. Each one of the dead leaves a family bereaved. Our prayer is rooted in the faith that death is not the end of the story; for the promise of eternal life opens the door of hope even in our darkest moments. We pray for each and every one of those who have died, those who mourn and also for all of those who serve the sick and dying.”
Reflecting on “the terrible toll on our country”, prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to get vaccinated: “Our way out of this pandemic is for everyone to get their booster or their first or second dose if they haven't yet.” He thanked NHS staff and vaccination volunteers.