The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Bishop Brian McGee, sent a message to the diocese on Saturday (16 May) in which he set out dates on which special masses are to be celebrated for parishes in the Western Isles.

There are 25 parishes in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, and Bishop Brian has been celebrating Mass for each in alphabetical order during the period when churches have been closed for worship.

He said: “For the past month I have been praying daily for a particular parish in our diocese. Many people have appreciated this and so I will continue the practice. 

“During these masses I intercede for the whole parish: the clergy, all who worship in the parish church and chapel(s) of ease and everyone who lives within the parish boundaries.”

The masses are live-streamed through the diocesan website and Facebook at 10am each day – today’s mass was for the parish of St Michael’s in Ardkenneth, South Uist and this week will also see mass for St Mary’s, Benbecula on Thursday and St Mary’s Bornish, South Uist, on Friday.

In Barra a special mass will be celebrated for Castlebay Parish on Tuesday 26 May and Northbay Parish on Friday 5 June.

Bishop Brian has been closely engaged with planning the safe phased opening of Catholic churches across Scotland, following a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland last week (Wednesday 13 May).

He has been appointed chair of a new COVID-19 working group, which will examine how best to meet the long-term pastoral needs of the Catholic community during the pandemic.

Bishop Brian said: “After our public masses stopped and our churches closed with almost no warning, the immediate response from our priests and parishioners across Scotland was both impressive and uplifting.

“With great ingenuity and creativity, online masses and devotions were made available throughout the country every day. Through this and other action, many vulnerable and lonely people continue to be supported in safe ways.”

“While it will be wonderful when our parishes can reopen, we recognise that parish life cannot quickly return to normal until a vaccine or a treatment is available. We do not expect this to happen until at least 2021.

“This means, that even when churches reopen, parish activities will still be greatly restricted, (we) hope to identify and publicise advice or resources to help dioceses and parishes face fresh challenges in a safe manner.

“Although not denying the difficulties which lie ahead, our group had a very positive first meeting. Early figures indicate very high numbers of viewers are watching and downloading masses and devotions online, leading us to believe that with God’s providential care, the spiritual, pastoral and catechetical work we do can actually help renew the Church in Scotland and bring growth and hope after a time of despair.”

Photograph from the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles