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Church closures in lockdown caused physical and mental suffering among two thirds of worshippers

by Will Hobbs

A Catholic Union survey has found that two in three Catholics experienced negative physical or mental health impacts after churches were closed during Covid, with 93% claiming the government failed to appreciate the value of places of worship.

The survey of almost 1,000 people is the first major study of Catholic attitudes towards the closure of churches during the pandemic and the impact this had on people’s wellbeing.

Other findings from the survey include:

Only 25 per cent of responders thought that it was necessary to close churches and other places of worship by law at the start of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, 93 per cent of responders did not think politicians gave enough consideration to people’s faith when making decisions.

89 per cent of responders said that it was unhelpful having different legal restrictions on churches across different regions and nations of the UK.

The Catholic Union's British deputy director James Somerville-Meikle told Premier: "We're really keen to make sure that, along with all the other things this inquiry has to consider, that decisions around places of worship and the impact that had on people's lives are properly considered."

Somerville-Meikle believes the experience has taught us to "never assume that people in government understand the perspective of people who have faith", referencing Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen McNamara's words early on in the inquiry, on the narrowness of perspectives within the cabinet.

"She raised concerns about too few people around the Cabinet table having children at state schools, too few people being women, too few people having what we would call normal life experiences.

"And I think you could extend that to going to church and having faith as well. So it's really important that when these decisions are made, the church does its best to help public authorities and those who've got the task of running the country at a difficult time."

In the new year the Union will submit their evidence to the Covid Inquiry.  They're requesting a special session "specifically on places of worship", to give church leaders a voice about the way Covid was handled.

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