With England and Scotland plunged into fresh lockdowns to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has stressed that keeping churches open is vital for people’s resilience during this challenging time.
The cardinal’s comments come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown during a special televised address to the nation at 8pm on Monday 4th January and instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
The PM’s announcement followed a similar one from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. However, one glaring difference is that while places of worship can remain open in England for communal worship, Ms Sturgeon has ordered that they must close in Scotland until at least the end of the month.
Cardinal Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, stressed the importance of keeping churches open, especially during these challenging times.
“The regular practice of our faith in God is a well-established source of both personal resilience and dedicated service to those in need. Such resilience and enduring service are vital in these difficult circumstances,” he said.
“I am glad that no measures have been introduced that would obstruct or curtail this essential source of energy for the common good. Catholic parishes will continue to serve the needs of their local community.
“In one parish, for example, the provision of food for the needy has increased by 400 per cent since March last year.”
The latest lockdown restrictions came into force today, Tuesday 5th January, and temporarily replace the previous four-tier system.
In terms of Communal Worship and Life Events, the guidance states that people ‘can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
‘You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worship and must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble when attending a place of worship,’ it stresses.
‘Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend, and weddings and civil ceremonies may only take place in exceptional circumstances.’
However, in Scotland, the guidance simply states: ‘Places of worship are required to close for worship, but can open for the purposes of leading an act of worship (broadcast or online), conducting a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or a funeral.’
Picture: Members of the faithful pray in Westminster Cathedral. (Mazur/cbcew.org.uk).