Limited Reopening of Churches

HM Government has announced that churches and other places of worship can open for individual prayer from Monday 15th June. As advised by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, not all churches will immediately reopen, due to the ongoing Covid-19 safety measures which are necessary to protect clergy, parishioners, staff and volunteers. 

The first five churches to reopen for individual prayer in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle are:

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle

St. Aidan’s, Ashington

St. Patrick’s, Consett

St. Mary’s, Sunderland

St. Joseph’s, Hartlepool

There will be a phased opening of more churches after safety measures have been assessed and implemented. Further details, including the date and times of opening, will be announced as they become available. Volunteers will be needed for the cleaning and stewarding of church buildings.

Catholic Papers

The Catholic Universe and Catholic Times are continuing to publish during the period of lockdown. From this week, the two will be combined in a single newspaper, with the Catholic Times appearing as a supplement within the Catholic Universe.

The Catholic newspapers will continue to be available in a box outside the church door, together with paper copies of the parish bulletin, and copies of ‘Walk with Me,’ a booklet of Eastertide prayers and reflections. If you pass St Cuthbert’s during your daily exercise, or while doing essential shopping, please pick up copies for yourself and your neighbours, especially for anyone who is quarantined.

You could also consider ordering the Catholic papers for delivery to your home, at https://www.thecatholicuniverse.com/  or by phone on 0161 820 5722.

Broadcast of Mass by the BBC

BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship will broadcast Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Nichols in Westminster Cathedral, on Sunday 14 June at 8.10am. As an accessible radio broadcast, this is good news for the Catholic community. Please share news of this broadcast with any isolated parishioners who may not have access to the internet and therefore have been unable to attend online Mass services. For more information click here.

Mystery and Gift

Today, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we celebrate a mystery. God has revealed himself to us as three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can there be three Persons in one God? It’s a mystery that is beyond human understanding.

Many of the most important things in life are a mystery to us. The gifts of life and of love, and the beauty of the world that God has created, are all mysteries that we can never fully grasp, but can only accept and reflect on. We come to know another person little by little, as we share friendship and love with them – but in some way, they always remain a mystery to us. And, in a similar way, God gradually revealed his mysteries to the people he created. The peoples of the ancient world believed in gods that were remote and frightening, but the true God revealed himself to the people of Israel as ‘a God of tenderness and compassion.’ God remained faithful to his chosen people, and continued to love them, though they turned away from God again and again. Jesus tells Nicodemus that, in his faithful love, God sent his only Son into the world as our Saviour. The Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to give life and unity to the Church. God never abandons us.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is that there are relationships within God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loving one another. Out of the love within God, God creates the world, and creates beings that can know and love God – men and women. God loves us, and calls us to respond by loving him, and loving one another. We can never understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity – we can only live it.

A Diocesan Day of Scripture

A Diocesan Day of Scripture: Friday 19 June will be a diocesan Day of Scripture, as part of our 2020 Year of the Word celebrations. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have declared 2020 to be a year of special focus on the Bible, marking the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter Verbum Domini, (The Word of the Lord) and 1600 years since the death of Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin. Details and full programme for the day at www.rcdhn.org.uk

Reopening of Churches

At present, there is no change in the Government regulations which means that all churches and other places of worship remain closed and public acts of worship are forbidden. The Bishops of England & Wales are working with the Government to prepare for the gradual reopening of churches for private prayer, and later for public worship. Bishop Robert and the Diocese have begun planning for the reopening of some of our churches when that is approved by the Government, taking into account:

  • The safety of parishioners, volunteers, staff and clergy to be the highest priority.
  • A very small number of churches will be opened first as a pilot. The Bishop is consulting with the Chapter of Canons and Partnership Deans to decide which churches will open first.
  • A full risk assessment will be carried out on each church by the Diocese to ensure health and safety.
  • The Diocese will provide the necessary equipment for a deep clean of the churches, and for essential regular cleaning.
  • Volunteers will be needed for church cleaning, and as stewards to ensure social distancing when the church is open.
  • Full compliance with Diocesan health and safety regulations and procedures will be required by clergy, employees and volunteers before a church is opened.

The Bishop has instructed that no action is to be taken until further guidance is received.

Receive the Holy Spirit

Fifty days have passed since we celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Today, the Feast of Pentecost brings the Easter season to an end. In the Gospel, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples, bringing peace and forgiveness of sins. Yet in the First Reading, the coming of the Spirit seems anything but peaceful. The signs of the coming of the Spirit are a noise like a strong wind, and tongues of flame that rest on the disciples’ heads. 

Today’s feast celebrates the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives power to Jesus’ disciples to overcome the divisions of the human race, caused by our different languages and nationalities. At Pentecost, people from the many nations of the Roman Empire can hear and understand the disciples’ preaching about the marvels that God has worked. The disciples themselves are transformed; they leave behind their fear and anxiety, and become bold preachers and missionaries. They are no longer afraid to give their lives for Jesus. 

We receive the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. The Spirit can be as powerful in us as in the first disciples. The Spirit has power to overcome division, to bring peace and understanding, and to forgive our sins. The power of the Holy Spirit can transform us into fearless witnesses for Christ, just like the disciples. In this time of pandemic, the powers of this world seem to be shaken up and disrupted. We see clearly that all earthly power has its limits. But there is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Chaplaincy St Vincent de Paul Group

The Chaplaincy St Vincent de Paul Group raised £80 (before lockdown) for St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds. The Senior Fundraiser for the hospice writes: ‘Thank you so much for your recent donation to St Gemma’s Hospice on behalf of St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church in Durham. I just wanted to get in touch today to let you know that we really appreciate your kind support during this time, and ask that you please pass our sincere thanks on to everyone at the church who kindly contributed to the donation.’

Funerals this week

The Funeral Service for Margaret Moralee will be celebrated on Tuesday 2nd June at 12 noon at South Road Cemetery, Durham.

The Funeral Service for Denis Hawley will be celebrated on Friday 5th June at 1.30pm at Metal Bridge Cemetery, Co Durham.

Please pray for the repose of their souls, and for their families.

The hour has come

This Sunday falls between the two great feasts of Ascension and Pentecost.  Jesus has returned to God the Father, and the Church is waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel, again, comes from John’s account of the Last Supper. Jesus prays to God the Father in the presence of his disciples. He has finished the work that his Father gave him. He has revealed God’s love to the world, and he has glorified the Father by his life and teaching. Now, Jesus knows that he is returning to the Father. He instructs the community of disciples who will remain to continue his work. The disciples belong to God. They have heard Jesus’ words and come to know him. They will witness to what they have heard and seen, and so they will bring others to God.

Today, we are the disciples sent into the world by Jesus. We belong to God by our baptism. We have come to know Jesus and believe in him, through hearing his words. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, who transforms us and gives us courage to face the opposition of the world. God is glorified when we live by the teachings of Christ. God is glorified when we keep God’s word, by loving God and our neighbour. Even in these strange and difficult times, we can give glory to God, and help others come to faith, by our witness and our love for one another. We are in the world, and we belong to God

The Spirit is in you


Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper. He looks ahead, beyond his death and resurrection, to the time after he has returned to his Father; and he tells his disciples that they will not be left alone. The Father and the Son will send the Holy Spirit to be with the disciples. The Spirit is described as Parakletos – a word that means advocate, counsellor or supporter. The Spirit of truth will stand alongside the disciples and be the life of their community; ‘…he is with you, he is in you.’ The world cannot receive or recognise the Spirit, but the Spirit works powerfully in the disciples who love Jesus, drawing them into the loving relationship of Father, Son and Spirit.

In the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the Holy Spirit at work. The power of the Spirit can even overcome the ancient enmity between Jews and Samaritans; the people of the Samaritan town welcome Philip and come to faith in Christ, and they are cleansed of demons and healed of sickness. A Spirit-filled Church is a living and healing Church. This time of pandemic, when we cannot enter our church buildings or gather as a community, challenges us to reconsider what it means to be a Church. The Church is a community of disciples, united in faith and filled with the Holy Spirit. We are a Church when we live by Christ’s commandments of love for God and for our neighbour. There are many ways to show love, even in these strange times. Our life as a Church is not confined to buildings or structures. The Spirit knows no limits.

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