Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the Church is ready to reopen its churches for private prayer when it is possible to do so, but warned doing so would involve serious risks.
Speaking to Sky News he said that peoples’ spiritual needs are “essential”.
“So when it's possible we're ready. I think it's very important that we take profoundly seriously the risks involved and make all the necessary preparations, open to inspection, so that we can be confident that in encouraging people to come to that sacred space – which corresponds to what's inside of them – that we're doing it safely and contributing to the overall health of the nation.”
Meanwhile the Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, who has been outspoken in his calls for churches to reopen for private prayer as soon as possible, said in a message on Twitter this weekend that he hoped churches would be among the first services to reopen after lockdown restrictions are eased.
“Please pray for the English, Welsh and Scottish bishops that the Lord will bless their negotiations with the government to ensure our churches will be in the first wave of reopenings after the coronavirus lock-down,” he wrote.
His message came as The Catholic Universe reported that its proposal to reopen churches, outlined in a letter sent by the newspaper to the Prime Minister, has been rejected.
“Community spaces where people gather, including places of worship, must continue to remain closed. We will revisit these policies in three weeks,” a letter from the Head of Ministerial Correspondence for Housing, Communities and Local Government read.
A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference told The Tablet: “When the Government makes a statement announcing the lessening of the current restrictions, the Bishops will make a prompt, realistic and clear case to them about the reopening of Churches.
“We must be ready to act with full responsibility, under public scrutiny and always with an eye for the common good of the society of which we are part,” he added.