Cardinal Vincent Nichols has stressed that we must all play our part to safeguard the NHS and to save “precious lives”.
The cardinal’s call comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson took dramatic steps to combat the spread of Covid-19, which included an order for places of worship to close.
The draconian measures will be in place for at least three weeks and will also see the closure of libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, and shops selling “non-essential” goods.
“We’re going to play our full part in it,” said Cardinal Nichols. “That was the call of St Paul that we ought to be good citizens and today we ought to be good citizens playing our part in the protection of the vulnerable, in our support for the NHS and in the preserving of human life, which is so precious to God in the face of this virus.”
A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales told The Catholic Universe: “All priests will continue to celebrate Mass privately – many of these masses are being live streamed – and continuing their daily prayer.
“Many will also be in contact with parishioners via phone/email/text offering spiritual support.”
On the issue of hospital chaplains’ duties, the spokesperson said this is an area that is evolving.
In his address to the nation, Mr Johnson said people should not be going shopping except for essentials such as food and medicine.
Although that meant that food retailers and pharmacies would remain open, Mr Johnson said people should limit shopping trips and use delivery services where possible.
Online supermarkets appeared to buckle under the strain after the announcement with crashes occurring on the Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda websites.
In a sombre statement, Mr Johnson said: “To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.”
The guidance issued by the Government stated that hair, beauty and nail salons and outdoor and indoor markets – apart from food markets – would also be shut.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the move would disrupt people’s lives, businesses and jobs.
“I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review,” he said.
“We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.
“But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.”
The statement comes only days after the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland suspended public worship as part of an effort to continue to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Bishops announced at the time that Masses would take place without a congregation, with worshippers encouraged to follow services on live streams.
Picture: The NHS logo. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).