Thorough preparation underway for the safe re-opening of churches on 15 June
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has welcomed the decision that Catholic churches, that can safely do so, will re-open for individual prayer on 15 June.
Cardinal Nichols hopes people will benefit from the ‘sacredness’ of our church spaces and describes it as a “great blessing for individuals and for the benefit of all in society, that church doors will again be open to all who long to pray there for the peace and grace we need today.”
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his decision that our churches may now open again for individual prayer. I thank the Secretary of State for Communities, Mr Robert Jenrick and the Minister of State, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, for their leadership of the Task Force which helped bring about this important step.
This is a first, measured step in restoring the more normal practice of our faith and will be welcomed by so many, who have waited with great patience since 23 March when our churches were closed, by Government decision, as part of the fight against this pandemic.
I thank everyone for that patience. It is important that every care is taken to ensure that the Guidance given for this limited opening is fully observed, not least by those entering our churches. Our preparation is taking place with thoroughness. Visiting a church for individual prayer, benefitting from the sacredness of that space, can be done safely and confidently.
Not every Catholic Church will be open on 15 June. Local decisions and provision have to lead this process. But it is a great blessing, for individuals and for the benefit of all in society, that church doors will again be open to all who long to pray there for the peace and grace we need today.
This first step enables us to learn and prepare for those that will take us to a fuller use of our churches, for the celebration of Mass and other sacraments. We await that time with deep longing but patient understanding that the protection of the health of our society, especially of the most vulnerable, is a proper cause for caution and care.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Re-opening Catholic Churches must, of course, happen in a safe manner, and it is likely to take place in stages. Each stage will be accompanied by guidance to ensure this can happen safely and effectively.
These guidance notes are intended to assist Parish Priests to be ready to re-open their churches from 15 June. They focus on what is needed to open churches safely (i.e. providing the least possible risk of transmission of the virus) for private prayer as a first step. This guidance has been compiled with detailed public health advice and scrutiny and complies with the Principles established by Government.
The UK government’s press release on the move to re-open churches and places of worship for individual prayer on 15 June 2020:
“New guidance will be published shortly to ensure the limited re-opening of places of worship can be done safely and in line with social distancing guidelines. This will recommend the thorough cleaning of shared spaces, hand cleansing at entry and exit and asking worshippers to bring their own items such as a prayer mat or religious text instead of sharing or using communal ones.
“Individual prayer will be permitted from 15 June, but communally led prayer, worship or devotion such as services, evensong, informal prayer meetings, Mass, Jummah or Kirtan will not be possible at this stage.
“The Government will continue to work with the Taskforce towards the full reopening of places of worship as soon as the scientific advice allows.”
This is an extract, read the full release here.