The Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury have urged people to get vaccinated, with Archbishop Justin Welby declaring that it is a moral issue.
As Covid cases rose before Christmas, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, encouraged people to take up Covid vaccinations and boosters when offered by the NHS.
“The call ‘Get vaccinated! Get boosted!’ is more and more pressing,” he said. “The need is more urgent, especially in London.” He added his voice to that of Pope Francis who has reflected that to be vaccinated is “an act of love”. Cardinal Nichols said: “Here is real protection, for yourself and for others.”
He was also echoing the call of his favourite football manager, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, in encouraging people to take up Covid vaccinations and boosters when offered by the NHS. “I add my voice to many others… To the voice of my favourite football manager, Jurgen Klopp, in London this weekend: ‘The whole vaccination process is a question of solidarity, loyalty and togetherness’. He added: “There is only one answer:You do it.”
The heads of churches in the UK have fully supported the vaccine programme during 2021. As the first vaccine was rolled out early in the year, Cardinal Vincent received the first dose of Covid vaccine on 20 January.
In a message of encouragement to all, he said: “Such a kind and cheerful experience. I strongly encourage everyone to take the vaccine. Let's play our part and support NHS staff as they fight to save so many lives. Please, please continue to pray too for an end to this pandemic and for all who have lost their lives.”
Asked by Julie Etchingham, presenter, ITV News at Ten and a trustee of The Tablet, whether getting the Covid vaccine was a moral sisue, Archbishop Welby said: “I’m going to step out on thin ice here and say yes, I think it is. A lot of people won’t like that, but I think it is because it’s not about me and my rights.
“Obviously there are some who for health reasons can’t be vaccinated, but it’s not about me and my rights to choose.
“Reducing my chances of getting ill reduces my chances of infecting others. It’s very simple.
“So is it a sin - is it immoral - not to get vaccinated if you can?
“I’m not going to get lured into this because I can see this going back at me for years to come. But I would say, go and get boosted, get vaccinated. It’s how we love our neighbour.”
And what of the anti-vaccination protestors?“I'm really puzzled by it. I do know some of the scientists who are working on this. They’re not evil people. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not a plot.
“They are not bad people – they are in really difficult circumstances and giving us their best advice. Trust them. They know what they are doing better than we do."
Last week, European Churches urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and Rev Christian Krieger, president of the Conference of European Churches, called for responsibility and care amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and encouraged people to get vaccinated.
In a statement, they said: “In this time of Advent, let us manifest Christ's love by demonstrating responsibility and care for all.” They added: “We believe that vaccination is currently the most effective way to counter the pandemic and save human lives. Vaccination offers protection not only to ourselves but also to our brothers and sisters, particularly the more fragile among us; thus an act of love and care and also one of responsibility and social justice.”
They also reiterated their call to the European Union and its Member States “to fulfil their vaccine-sharing pledges and step up global efforts towards ensuring an equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all, including in regions with weaker health systems.”