04 November 2020, The Tablet

Cardinal calls Catholics to daily prayer during lockdown

Cardinal calls Catholics to daily prayer during lockdown

Prime minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask and remembrance poppy as he leaves 10 Downing Street for Parliament today.
David Cliff/NurPhoto/PA

The Archbishop of Westminster and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are calling for Catholics to join a “national shared moment of prayer” each day during lockdown.

In a statement this evening, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon OP urge Catholics to respect the regulations that forbid the gathering of people for communal worship in churches and other religious buildings. 

They urge prayer at 6pm each day.

But they regret the Mass ban, and criticise the “fundamental lack of understanding of the essential contribution made by faith communities to the well-being, resilience and health of our society.”

In an earlier statement, the bishops said: “Whilst we understand the many difficult decisions facing the Government, we have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever that would make the banning of communal worship, with all its human costs, a productive part of combatting the virus. We ask the Government to produce this evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship.”

Catholic Voices is among the organisations insisting an explanation be produced, and arguing that “Mass, too is essential.”

Ordinariate priest Fr David Palmer has made clear his opposition to the suspension of public worship in a series of tweets. Announcing the precise times at which his church will be open for private prayer, he continued: “You may of course individually decide to unite your prayers with the sacrifice of the Mass (that is your individual choice). After Fr David has offered Mass those who individually choose to do so may come forward for holy Communion, which Cardinal Sarah (the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship) has said no one can stop a priest from administering.”

He had previously tweeted that he was prepared to be arrested before he denied the sacraments to the “people of God” again.

However, last night he tweeted: “I am deeply saddened to say that I have been asked by the Bishop not to offer private Mass while the Church is open for private prayer. I can’t go against the direct request of the Bishop. He had great empathy for my position, but still felt he had to ask me to desist.”

In their lockdown statement this evening, the Catholic bishops say: “Churches remain open and in use for activities other than communal worship, including personal prayer and support for those in need.  Funeral Masses and funeral services may be held. Please refer to the Regulations (for places of worship see paragraph 18) and associated Guidance.”

They continue: “Despite profound misgivings it is important that we, as responsible citizens, observe these Regulations, which have the force of law: ‘Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity’ (Titus 3:1).  We do this in solidarity with so many others on whom are being imposed restrictions which impact severely on their lives and livelihoods.

“It is also important to recognise that these regulations are not an attack on religious belief. However, they do demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the essential contribution made by faith communities to the well-being, resilience and health of our society.”

They call on Catholics to “make full use of our churches as places of individual prayer and sources of solace and help”. 

And they continue: “We must sustain each other in our patterns of prayer, joining a national shared moment of prayer each day at 6pm, and observing the Vigil of Christ the King (21 November) as a day of prayer for the ending of this pandemic... This pathway of prayer and service is the royal road we are to take as a gracious witness in our society today.”



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