UK’s latest lockdown riles Catholic bishops

Catholics bishops in England and Wales want the Government to justify closing churches in the latest lockdown.

All places of worship must end acts of collective worship. There are exceptions – for limited-attendance funeral ceremonies, to broadcast acts of worship, for individual prayer, for formal childcare/school and for essential voluntary and public services, eg food banks.

The president and vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, say it is a “source of deep anguish” to again have a ban on public communal worship.

“Whilst we understand the many difficult decisions facing the Government, we have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever that would make the banning of communal worship, with all its human costs, a productive part of combating the virus. We ask the Government to produce this evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship,” they said in a joint statement.

The latest lockdown, which begins on Thursday, will bring “hardship, distress and suffering to many,” Nichols and McMahon say.

“We must hope and pray that this is an effective strategy against a growing pandemic which has tragically taken so many lives already and threatens so many more.”

While accepting that to counter the virus, the country will need to make sustained sacrifices for several months, Nichols and McMahon point out critical service towards the common good is created and sustained by communal worship and prayer.

This is reflected in the role faith communities play in sustaining personal, spiritual and mental health and encouraging vital charitable activities, they say. These activities include supporting hundreds of thousands of people in all sections of the community, especially the most vulnerable.

“Part of this selfless giving has been a strong ethic of responsibility in the way in which we have reopened our churches so that essential worship has been enabled. Our communities have done a great deal to make our churches safe places in which all have been able to gather in supervised and disciplined ways.”

If the Government expects the country to make sacrifices to help reduce COVID-19s spread, the Government has a profound responsibility to show why it has taken particular decisions, Nichols and McMahon say.

“Not doing so risks eroding the unity we need as we enter a most difficult period for our country.”

Catholic Union President, Sir Edward Leigh MP is among the senior Catholic laity objecting to the latest lockdown restrictions.

“This is an extremely regrettable step. Catholic parishes and individual volunteers have gone to great lengths and given up many hours to make churches safe…

“These new measures are particularly frustrating as we’ve seen no evidence that people meeting for church services are contributing to the spread of the virus in this country…

“In the absence of evidence that such services have been a significant source of transmission of the virus, outlawing religious services is a disproportionate response to the pandemic which will increase the suffering of many ordinary people.”


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