Churches in England will be permitted to reopen for individual prayer from Monday 15 June.
The UK government announced today in a statement: "This move recognises the spiritual and mental health benefits for people being able to pray in their place of worship, and that for some people this cannot be replicated by praying at home.
"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."
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: "Ensuring places of worship can open again, beginning with individual prayer has been my priority. Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.
"I'm pleased this can now happen from 15 June. As Communities Secretary I have worked with faith leaders and representatives to prepare guidance that ensures this can be done safely.
"People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way. As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited, but important return to houses of worship."
Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: "The Government has determined that this is the right time to begin re-opening places of worship for individual prayer. It's our hope that this is the first step in places of worship reopening fully, when the science supports it. I look forward to continuing to discuss with the Taskforce how to address ongoing practical safety issues in the coming weeks.
"Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish."
Welcoming the news, Cardinal Vincent Nichols commented: "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."
UK Government press release: www.gov.uk/government/news/places-of-worship-to-re-open-for-individual-prayer
We Need Your Support
ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.
Please support our journalism by donating today.Donate