CNA Staff, May 30, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- An English cardinal will ask Sunday why the government has failed to set a date for churches to reopen when it is lifting lockdown restrictions on car showrooms.
In a homily May 31, Cardinal Vincent Nichols will question why plans to ease lockdown measures from June 1 do not include places of worship.
Preaching at a Pentecost Sunday Mass in Westminster Cathedral, the cardinal will say that the Catholic Church accepted the government’s decision in March to close churches “because the protection of life required it.”
“But this week’s announcements by the Prime Minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on June 15, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed,” the Archbishop of Westminster will say, according to a press release issued May 30.
“We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?”
Public liturgies were suspended in England March 20 and churches closed a few days later. Bishops in the country have faced mounting calls from Catholics to reopen churches and allow congregations at Masses while respecting social distancing rules.
A video by lay Catholics appealing for churches to be reopened has been viewed more than 10,000 times since it was posted April 22.
Cardinal Nichols, who has been involved in discussions between the government and religious communities during the lockdown, is expected to say that the pandemic has underlined how important faith is to many people.
“The role of faith in our society has been made even clearer in these last weeks: as a motivation for the selfless care of the sick and dying; as providing crucial comfort in bereavement; as a source of immense and effective provision for those in sharp and pressing need; as underpinning a vision of the dignity of the every person, a dignity that has to be at the heart of the rebuilding of our society,” he will say.
“The opening of our churches, even if just for individual prayer, helps to nurture this vital contribution to our common good.”
The cardinal, who is the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, will also say that the bishops are confident they can reopen churches safely.
“We are ready to follow the Government’s guidelines as soon as they are finalized. What is the risk to a person who sits quietly in a church which is being thoroughly cleaned, properly supervised and in which social distancing is maintained? The benefits of being able to access places of prayer is profound, on individual and family stability and, significantly, on their willingness to help others in their need,” he will say.
“It is now time to move to the phased opening of our churches.”
The island of Guernsey will permit what are thought to be the first public Masses in the British Isles since the coronavirus lockdown from June 1.
The island, located in the English Channel, is a self-governing British crown dependency and not part of the U.K. It is therefore able to set its own rules.
The U.K. is among the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With a population of 67 million, the U.K has had more than 274,000 documented coronavirus cases and 38,450 deaths as of May 30, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
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