06 April 2020, The Tablet
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, pictured here in Westminster Cathedral holding a relic of St Thomas Becket.
Lauren Hurley/PA Archive/PA Images
The Archbishop of Westminster is to broadcast a Catholic service across the UK on Easter Day in an unprecedented response to the closure of churches because of the coronavirus.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols will be leading a service on all 39 BBC local radio stations on Easter Sunday from 8am, the BBC confirmed today.
Chris Burns, head of BBC Local Radio, said: "We are delighted that Cardinal Nichols has agreed to lead worship for BBC local radio listeners. It is something that we have been planning with the Catholic Church since the coronavirus outbreak began and it's fantastic to see it come to fruition.
"Easter Day is extremely important to all Christians and we are privileged to have the leader of the Catholic Church in this country sharing his thoughts with our audiences at this important time.
"Each week during the coronavirus crisis a different Christian denomination is leading service across all 39 BBC local radio stations. Among these are plans for more Catholic services. Faith is a hugely important part of people's lives and we want as many people as possible to be able to worship despite everything that is going on."
Cardinal Nichols told The Tablet: "I am delighted to work with the BBC on this Easter Sunday morning act of prayer and praise. In it I try to bring together the joy of Easter with the reality of daily lives. No doubt there is a great appetite for this focus in broadcasting today which gives a place to the particular qualities of our Christian traditions. A lowest common denominator approach is much less appealing to many."
Two weeks ago, the Catholic Union urged the BBC
to broadcast Mass celebrations on Sundays because many parishioners have no access to live-streamed services on the internet.
Regarding today's announcement of the Easter Day broadcast plans on local radio with Cardinal Nichols, the Catholic Union responded: "We welcome the broadcast of the Cardinal's Easter Sunday Mass on BBC Local Radio stations and also the broadcast of the Pope's Easter Urbi et Orbi message, but we worry that the BBC has not appreciated the importance, specifically, of Sunday mass to Catholics and taken into account the inability of Catholics, particularly the elderly and infirm, without internet access to participate in the Mass on other Sundays."
BBC director general Tony Hall responded to the Catholic Union's request by writing to them outlining some of the Easter plans. In his letter he said: "We’ll continue to regularly include contributions from Catholic speakers on Daily Service and on Radio 3 we have broadcasts of Choral Vespers scheduled from venues such as Westminster Cathedral, in an archive edition to be broadcast in Holy Week; two more are planned from Our Lady of Victories, Kensington and The Cardinal Vaughan School in London."
He also explained that one problem is that it is not possible to do outside broadcasts because of the travel restrictions and distancing, so on Radio 4 the Sunday Worship service for Palm Sunday was a specially compiled studio service pre-recorded close to transmission to reflect the immediacy of events.
Those who took part included the clergy of Farm Street Jesuit Church and Dr Theodora Hawksley, to reflect on Palm Sunday and the journey to the Cross.
BBC One will also be broadcasting the Pope's Urbi et Orbi as usual, presented by Martin Bashir. Because the Pope will be making his address from behind closed doors, the broadcast will be adapted accordingly.
For a full list of Easter and Holy Week services on the BBC, online liturgical and spiritual resources and more, see Isolated but not Alone, The Tablet's list of help for Catholics during the coronavirus crisis.