The Catholic Union has urged the BBC to broadcast the celebration of Mass on Sundays as the Coronavirus crisis continues.
Public Masses have been suspended by the Bishops in Scotland, and England and Wales, following Government guidance on social distancing. Churches have now closed their doors to visitors completely as efforts to stop the spread of the virus intensify.
In a letter to the BBC Director General, Lord Hall, the Catholic Union calls on the corporation to find time on television and radio schedules to make the Mass available to people in their homes.
The letter, signed by Catholic Union President Sir Edward Leigh MP and Vice President Mike Kane MP, asks the BBC to take account of the needs of the 4.5 million Catholics in this country during this time of national emergency.
Whilst some churches are live streaming Masses, these services are not available to everyone – particularly the elderly and the most isolated, without decent broadband connect.
Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker commented: “Weekly or daily attendance at Mass is a central part of the spiritual life of all Catholics. Churches have shown fantastic innovation in live streaming Masses, but this does not benefit everyone. For the elderly and most isolated – without digital services – this will be an extremely difficult time. We’ve called on the BBC to step up to its responsibilities as a public service broadcaster and make the mass available to people in their homes. At this time of crisis, we need the BBC to be a truly national broadcaster and consider the needs of Catholics and other faith groups in its content. Just one hour a week would make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people across the country. It’s time for the BBC to deliver for Catholics.”
Read the full letter here: Letter to Lord Hall
UPDATE 3 April 2020
We have received the following reply from the BBC Director General, Tony Hall:
“Dear Sir Edward and Mr Kane,
Thank you for your letter last week.
As you’ve seen, we’re making a series of changes to our output to help keep the nation informed at this time of national need. We recognise our role to support the major faiths through the challenges of these difficult times and we are looking at ways we can do this within the constraints facing the BBC, like all organisations, in the current climate.
Colleagues in BBC Religion & Ethics are doing amazing work to offer a wealth of content in these circumstances. This will include regular visits to Catholic churches in the months ahead; albeit they will be produced in different ways given the exceptional situation.
We’ll continue to regularly include contributions from Catholic speakers on Daily Service and on Radio 3 we have broadcasts of Choral Vespers scheduled from venues such as Westminster Cathedral, in an archive edition to be broadcast in Holy Week; two more are planned from Our Lady of Victories, Kensington and The Cardinal Vaughan School in London. Currently, it’s not possible to do outside broadcasts because of the travel restrictions and distancing, so on Radio 4 the Sunday Worship service for Palm Sunday will be a specially compiled studio service pre-recorded close to transmission to reflect the immediacy of events. Those taking part will include the clergy of Farm Street Jesuit Church and Sister Theodora Hawksley, to reflect on Palm Sunday and the journey to the Cross.
I’m pleased to say that we will also be broadcasting Urbi et Orbi on BBC One as usual, presented by Martin Bashir. As the Pope will be making his address from behind closed doors, the broadcast will be adapted accordingly. However, it will remain a key part of the Easter schedule.
I hope that this helps reassure you of our commitment to offer something for those of all faiths during these unprecedented times. Thanks for getting in touch.