Cardinal Vincent Nichols has welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that churches can reopen for public worship from 4th July.
The news came today as part of Mr Johnson announced a further easing of restrictions from 4th July, including the relaxing of the two-metre social distancing rule and the reopening of various venues and businesses, as long as they are “Covid-secure”.
Amid his speech, Mr Johnson announced that places of worship will be able to reopen on 4th July for prayer and services, including weddings with a maximum of 30 people.
“I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship,” he said. “This year, Easter, Passover and Eid all occurred during the lockdown.
“So I am delighted that places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services – including weddings with a maximum of 30 people, all subject to social distancing.”
Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, welcomed the announcement, saying it is “welcome news for members of all religions in England”.
Thanking all who have worked to bring this about, including his fellow religious leaders, the cardinal said the faithful are “full of anticipation” at the thought of being able to take part in the Eucharist once again. However, he stressed the importance of abiding by the Government’s guidance.
“As Catholics we now look forward to being able to celebrate Mass together again from 4th July. We have waited with patience and longing for this moment, understanding the importance of protecting the health of people in our society. Now we are full of anticipation that we will be able again to take part together in the Eucharist, which lies at the centre of our faith,” he said.
“It is important that we continue to abide by the guidance, given by the Government, on appropriate social distancing and the other measures to avoid all unnecessary risk. Our own detailed guidance will be distributed around dioceses and parishes so everyone can be confident that they may come to Mass securely and understand the part they are to play in protecting each other from any remaining risk of infection.
“The past few months have been a time of fashioning new patterns of prayer, new ways of exploring and enriching our faith and vigorous ways of reaching out to those in need. We can build on these, forgetting nothing of the graces we have been given. Yet now, with the experience of opening our churches for individual prayer already gained, this return to the more normal patterns of worship will be of great importance to all Catholics.
“This time of our ‘Eucharistic fast’ has made our hearts grow in longing for that moment when we can come together and receive again the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. That moment is now very near and for that we thank God,” Cardinal Nichols said.
Picture: Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ celebrates Mass. (Mazur/cbcew.org.uk).