Access to places of worship will have to be “supervised” when they reopen, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.
Places of worship come under step three of the Government’s coronavirus recovery strategy, which means they cannot open until July 4 at the earliest.
But when they do reopen, certain sections of buildings could be closed to allow for cleaning to take place, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has suggested.
Speaking during a Zoom panel briefing hosted by the Religion Media Centre on Tuesday, the cardinal said: “I think one thing is very clear, access to a church in the foreseeable future will be supervised, so it’s not as if the church doors will be flung open and say ‘come in when you want’.
“There will have to be people there, the whole process will have to be supervised.”
He added: “Each day a different section of the church might be made available, it doesn’t have to be the whole church, the whole time.
“So you could have the right hand back part (of the church) for one day, and then the next day it will be the next session, so that would enable a cleaning routine to be more feasible, and it would leave parts of the church unused for maybe three days, which would help in terms of the hygiene.
“I would see the request to have access to churches for individual prayer both as a response to spiritual need and as a practical trial run, in which we can learn quickly.”
Asked if worshippers should wear masks while visiting places of worship, the cardinal said he was not in a position to comment until July, but added that church leaders should not be “overreacting”.
Elsewhere on the panel, it was said the timeframe of synagogues reopening would be based on the profile of the community they are situated in.
Jo Grose, communities director of United Synagogue said: “We know that reopening is going to be more drawn out, more complex and the decisions we make are really going to depend on the profile of the community.
“So there will be setting-by-setting decisions about how we do that based on their demographics and their buildings.”
Hassan Joudi, deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told the panel that mosques will consider whether people living near to institutions are comfortable with them reopening.
Mr Joudi added the MCB is “in touch” with European associations to assess how mosques are safely reopening as the lockdown is lifted in other countries.