01 May 2020, The Tablet

Bishops in talks to reopen churches

Bishops in talks to reopen churches

Mass with Bishop Patrick McKinney. Many are streaming services online.
Screenshot by CBEW

Catholic bishops are in talks with the Government about re-opening churches when the lockdown eases.

But this cannot happen prematurely, they insist. "When the prime minister announced the lockdown, this included places of worship and therefore Catholic churches. These measures were put in place to stem the general transmission of the virus. It is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society. This must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted."

Writing on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, the five Metropolitan Archbishops of Westminster, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Southwark say in a message published this morning that livestreamed Mass and other devotions are "faith-affirming".

But they also recognise they are second best to worshipping in church.

"None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves," they write. "While the live-streaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.

"Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though 'seeing, touching, and tasting'. We know that every bishop and every priest recognises the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts."

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and Archbishops Malcolm McMahon OP, Bernard Longley, George Stack and John Wilson acknowledge the need to act in solidarity for the common good, arguing that therefore, churches must remain closed until restrictions are lifted.

They write: "As the Government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life step by step. This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is shared by so many volunteers from our communities".

Together with Catholics across England and Wales, they say, they desire the opening of churches and access to the sacraments. "Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare."

They say: "The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us. At a time when so many shadows are cast into our lives, and upon our world, the light of the resurrection shines forever to renew and restore our hope."

And they refer to those who have died and others who are seriously ill.

"Keyworkers, not least in the National Health Service and care sectors, are serving selflessly to sustain the life of our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who is suffering because of Covid-19, and to all those battling to overcome its effects. May those who have died rest in peace and those who are bereaved find comfort."

Among those who commented, Bishop of Portsmouth Philip Egan tweeted: "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."






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