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Bishop of Chichester urges MPs to lobby Govt for church reopening

by Premier Journalist

The Bishop of Chichester has urged MPs to do more in lobbying for the reopening of churches in his diocese. 

In a letter addressed to MPs from his area, Rt Rev Martin Warner said he hoped the politicians "would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places." 

Bishop Martin cited remarks made by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who he said issued a "clear statement about the Catholic Church’s planning and commitment to best practice for opening Church buildings, and about recognising the importance for every faith tradition of its place of worship." 

Preaching on Pentecost Sunday, Nichols questioned why churches must remain closed while shops and businesses can engage in a phased reopening from 15th June: "Why are churches excluded from this decision?” he asked. “We have developed expert guidance. We are ready to follow the government’s guidelines as soon as they are finalized,” the Cardinal went on. “What is the risk to a person who sits quietly in a church which is being thoroughly cleaned, properly supervised and in which social distancing is maintained?" 

Bishop Martin added that he believes there is a "deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace." 

"I am fortunate to live near to Chichester cathedral," he wrote. "Each day I see individuals peering in through its glass doors. I know from personal experience what pressing and intimate needs find expression in the prayers that they write down and leave behind." 

The Bishop concluded:

"We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated. I am making this letter public, in order to indicate to those who have made comments to me on this matter that I have shared their concerns with you.

"Please be assured of my daily prayers for you and for your staff, as you seek to serve your constituents and the common good at this challenging time in our national life."

Last month, the government announced that churches would be permitted to reopen, "no later than 4th July." 

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