A group of young Catholics has launched a volunteering website, with the intention of helping with the reopening of Catholic churches across England, Wales and Scotland.
The website, Open Church Doors, allows lay Catholics to indicate their availability to help clean, maintain and manage their local parish for private prayer. With the site only a few days old, over 600 people have already signed up to help out.
It comes as group of 20 conservative MPs have requested that places of worship be reopened as soon as possible in an open letter published last Sunday, 24 May. The signatories of the letter questioned why the government allowed busy supermarkets to reopen but not places of worship.
According to one of the initiative’s organisers, the popularity of the site indicates an appetite to provide concrete assistance to bishops and priests working for the reopening of parishes, especially amongst younger, web-literate Catholics.
Speaking to the Tablet, Anton’ de Piro, who helped found the group, added that despite the stress of the coronavirus outbreak, lay Catholics were keen to find practical solutions to the closure of Churches. He emphasised that the project, which has received support from Shrewsbury Cathedral and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham, is a means for members of the church to show solidarity with each other and with the Church hierarchy.
Open Church Doors says that their website is intended to provide support to bishops currently negotiating with the government over the reopening of churches, and make the transition out of lockdown restrictions as smooth as possible. The details of each volunteer are passed along to their local parish, allowing local priests to know whether they have sufficient help to disinfect surfaces or enforce social distancing if their Church were to reopen.
The Church in England and Wales has been in negotiation with the government for several weeks, after official plans for the reopening of public spaces scheduled places of worship to reopen no sooner than July 4, alongside hairdressers and cinemas. Cardinal Nichols said at the time he intended to ask ministers to be more sensitive to matters of faith.
The Places of Worship Task Force, which includes Cardinal Nichols, had its first meeting on 15 May, which concluded with a promise from the government to consider reopening places of worship for private, social distanced prayer before the July date. The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP stated after the meeting that reopening places of worship is “a priority” for the Government.