The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland has expressed frustration over the Scottish government's decision to issue a blanket-wide ban on church services as part of its newly-instituted national lockdown.
The Bishops' said that while they "appreciate the difficult choices facing the Scottish Government at this time", they are "perplexed by the decision" to close churches, not least given that "the stringent measures taken since last March to ensure public safety in our churches have been effective".
They continued: "No evidence has been forthcoming to justify the inclusion of places of worship as sources of infection. Without such scientific evidence these restrictions will appear to Catholics to be arbitrary and unfair. Moreover, significant number of other sectors similarly restricted last March alongside public worship – such as construction, manufacturing and elite sports - have now been left free to continue in operation.
"We also note that, in England, the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual welfare of all citizens during this crisis has now been endorsed by the decision not to close places of worship while the Scottish Government has apparently retreated from this view, causing dismay and confusion
"We are very aware of the disappointment these closures will cause not only to our own Catholic community, but to many of our fellow-Christians and those of other faiths in Scotland.
"We wish to emphasise again the spiritual, social and psychological benefits provided by continuing public worship, and we ask for these to be taken into full account in future decisions. Public worship is a human right and is a duty humanity owes to God. More concretely, Catholics need the Eucharist and the Sacramental encounter with the LORD as necessary to their spiritual wellbeing and their ultimate salvation.
"While we unequivocally share the common goal of protecting public health, we urge the Scottish Government, when the present measures are reviewed later in January, to reconsider these restrictions in the light of the above concerns.”
Announcing the restrictions on worship services, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that while she was aware of how important communal worship is to people, "we believe this restriction is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission".
She added: "While up to 20 people will still be able to attend funeral services, wakes will not be possible during January, and a maximum of five people will be able to attend wedding and civil-partnership services.”