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'It's time for the phased reopening of churches': Cardinal Nichols joins call to review lockdown measures

by Heather Preston

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is the latest in a stream of Christian leaders calling for the re-opening of churches in the UK.

The Archbishop of Westminster has questioned why places of worship have not been prioritised in the Government's latest measures to ease lockdown restrictions.

Starting on Monday, commercial businesses including car showrooms and outdoor markets will be allowed to re-open their doors with all non-essential retailers free to follow suite from 15th June.

Speaking at his homily for Pentecost Sunday, Cardinal Nichols said this decision by the Prime Minister "questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed".

"We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?" he added.

As churches including Westminster Cathedral remain closed across the UK, Nichols remarked of the important role faith plays in our society, particularly during the current crisis: "as a motivation for the selfless care of the sick and dying; as providing crucial comfort in bereavement; as a source of immense and effective provision for those in sharp and pressing need; as underpinning a vision of the dignity of every person, a dignity that has to be at the heart of the rebuilding of our society."

He reasoned that the opening of church buildings "even if just for individual prayer", would help to "nurture this vital contribution to our common good".

"Opening churches must be done safely", he stressed and explained that expert guidance had been developed to ensure Government recommendations could be followed and no person would be at risk.

"The benefits of being able to access places of prayer is profound, on individual and family stability and, significantly, on their willingness to help others in their need.

"It is now time to move to the phased opening of our churches, he added."

This comes as a number of UK Bishops and church leaders have written to the government seeking an urgent review of lockdown measures that uniformly ban churches from opening.

The letter warns that the group intend to take legal action if the ban is not addressed.

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