The bishops of England and Wales have urged parishes to help domestic abuse victims after a surge in requests for aid during the coronavirus crisis. 

Since the lockdown began in the U.K. March 23 there has been a 49% increase in calls and online pleas for assistance related to domestic abuse, the bishops said in a statement April 29. 

Bishop John Sherrington, chairman of the bishops' domestic abuse group, said: "Catholic parishes can play an important role in fighting the scourge of domestic abuse, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where we are seeing some shocking statistics from leading domestic abuse organisations."

Guidance provided by the bishops' domestic abuse group encourages pastors to raise the issue of domestic violence during livestreamed Masses and in homilies published on parish websites. 

The group also asks parishes to establish local domestic abuse support groups. Teams of volunteers should keep in regular contact with vulnerable parishioners, and collect and deliver donations to those living in refuges and other safe locations, the group advises.

It adds that team leaders ought to be "in a non-vulnerable COVID-19 category, and not living with any vulnerable people." They should also have been checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service, which informs employers about applicants' criminal records.

"Every local situation will differ and so our new guidance is designed to be used as an introduction to start a local project," Bishop Sherrington said. "I hope that Catholics and parishes will be inspired to take this up in their local area."

"Violence of this kind should never be tolerated or justified. It is an offence against the dignity of the human person."