Lord Alton of Liverpool, Anne Widdecombe and Sir Edward Leigh are among a group of 19 highly influential Catholics who are calling for churches to be re-opened as plans to ease the Covid-19 lockdown begin.
In the letter, addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols and all the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the group, which also includes Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Tony Blair and Baroness O’Loan among others, asks the Church leaders to ‘urgently consider’ their request to re-open churches in order ‘to make the Real Presence of Our Lord accessible to all those who wish to pray before the Blessed Sacrament’.
While recognising the ‘various and difficult considerations’ that prompted the decision to close the churches temporarily as the nation went into lockdown, the signatories explain that ‘the lowering number of infections and the increasing pain of Catholics at their separation from the sacramental Presence of Our Lord prompt us to request a new consideration of the matter’.
The call comes after almost two months of lockdown and as Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out what he called “the first sketch of a road map for reopening society”, which includes plans to reopen churches from July.
The full list of signatories to the letter addressed to Cardinal Nichols and the bishops of England and Wales are: The Rt. Hon. The Lord Deben; The Rt. Hon. The Lord Brennan; Field Marshal the Rt. Hon. The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank; The Rt. Hon. The Lord Alton of Liverpool; The Rt. Hon. The Lord Shinkwin; The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Hooper, CMG; The Rt. Hon. The Baroness O’Loan, DBE; The Rt. Hon. Ann Widdecombe, PC; Sir Edward Leigh, MP; Sir Iain Duncan Smith, MP; Rosie Cooper, MP; Rt Hon Tony Blair, PC & Mrs Cherie Blair, QC; Graham Hutton, Chairman, Aid to the Church in Need UK; Richard Fitzalan-Howard, President, British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; Dr Michael Hurley, Fellow of St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge; Joanna Bogle, DSG; Richard Brumby, KSS; Clive Leach, CBE, Chairman, Universe Media Group.
Read the full story in this week’s edition of The Catholic Universe, out on Friday 15th May.
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Picture: A woman prays at the closed doors of Westminster Cathedral ahead of the Easter morning Mass on Sunday 12th April 2020. (Jonathan Brady/PA).