Catholic churches should have priority for reopening

cardinal nichols

Catholic churches should be allowed to reopen before Pentecostal churches, or mosques owing to their different styles of worship, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster says.

At the moment places of worship in England and Wales come under step three of the government’s recovery strategy. This means they will not be allowed to reopen until 4 July at the earliest.

Nichols says Catholic churches should be allowed to open for individuals wanting to pray privately in preference to places of worship in which large numbers of people gather.

“The issues of how people are able to practice their faith are profound and sensitive, and we’d like a bit more sensitivity from the government,” said on a radio broadcast.

Although the Catholic church has been creative in moving mass and other services online since the lockdown, “there is a big, big feeling in the religious communities of wanting to get back to a fuller practice of their faith as long as we can do it safely,” Nichols says.

“I’d like to see churches available for people to go and kneel and say their prayers privately, individually and it would mean a routine of supervision, a routine of social distancing, a routine of cleansing – and all of that we believe we can do.”

The government “needs an understanding that what goes on in places of worship is quite different from one to another”, Nichols says.

“A personal, individual prayer in a Catholic church is not something that is much done in Pentecostal churches which tend to concentrate on big gatherings. It’s not what’s done in mosques, where people pray side by side. So we need a bit of differentiated thinking.”

If he were to use the analogy of sport, Nichols says while it’s OK to play tennis with your family, it will soon be OK to have a kick around with your mates in the park. However, it will be quite a time before we can go to formal football matches.

“It’s all sport, but we need to differentiate,” Nichols says. “We’re talking about the practice of faith but we also need to differentiate.”

The Catholic church had prepared detailed proposals on how to start the process of reopening churches “step by step”, Nichols says.

These plans take into account that although hundreds of thousands of Catholics watched online Masses, they all want to receive holy communion,

“It’s a fast for us, quite a painful fast – and that’s true for other faiths.”

The sacrifice Muslims had to make when they were unable to go to mosques during Ramadan was also a deep spiritual sacrifice, he concludes.


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News category: World.