The extent of hygiene measures in place across churches has made them "among the safest places for people to attend" in the ongoing pandemic, a senior Catholic leader has said.
Bishop John Keenan, Vice President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, praised the "tireless" work of priests, parishioners and volunteers in keeping churches clean, echoing a letter sent to Scotland's 500 Catholic parishes urging them to continue with "meticulous" safety measures amid the UK's second wave.
"The tireless work of priests, parishioners and volunteers have ensured that Catholic churches are among the safest places for people to attend in the midst of this pandemic," Bishop Keenan said.
The letter from bishops acknowledges that the pandemic has created "unprecedented challenges" for the Church, with closures and other restrictions in recent months to prevent transmission of the virus.
While churches have implemented rigorous cleaning and social distancing measures since the resumption of public worship, the bishops warn that Scotland is "now at a fragile point" and that efforts must be redoubled.
"The rate of Covid-19 infections is on the rise across Scotland and public anxiety is increasing," they write.
"At this critical moment, we ask that we all persevere in our efforts to reduce the risk of transmission and to ensure that our parishes and communities adhere to all infection control measures that have been put in place."
They continue: "On that basis, we have every confidence that, if parishes continue these high standards, public worship and parish life can carry on and we will continue to attend to the spiritual welfare of the nation."
The letter concludes with a call to prayer for the nation.
"From long experience of plagues and disasters, the Church knows how the want of prayer and faith can do great harm to the spiritual wellbeing of nations, and how our public worship - owed to God – can bring His special divine assistance in times of national trouble," they say.
"Now, more than ever, our church doors need to be open, and consolidating our hard work to date will ensure this blessing for ourselves and for our country."