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Cardinal Nichols calls for open-air church over summer

by Heather Preston

The Archbishop of Westminster has suggested open-air church services be held throughout the summer months as a next step after churches were allowed to open for private prayer on Saturday.

Last week the Government released new guidance to enable places of worship in England to open safely for private prayer for the first time since lockdown began.

The guidance defines individual prayer within a place of worship as "a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act". It advises social distancing at all times, no food or drink, no sharing of Bibles, and no singing or playing or instruments, with the exception of an organist. 

England’s most senior Catholic bishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said the opening for private prayer is vital for Christians and their mental well-being.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said: “People have been put into a world where their horizons have been shortened. Inner pressures have built up. Some people are focusing on the past and their failings and they need to step into a church where horizons will widen out again.

“This is a first step, a first toe in the water, so we are all a bit tentative and a bit anxious”.

A full reopening of church services is not expected to take place until at least 4th July as part of the Government’s third stage of lifting restrictions.    

Nichols has been outspoken in calling for the ban on church services to be lifted, claiming that places of worship have been “at the back of the queue” when it comes to non-essential services.

As church services remain banned under current government regulations, Nichols has suggested open-air services as a possible next step to allow congregations to gather again.

“They would also have restrictions on the number of people who should gather,” he said, “but outdoor celebrations should be explored in the summer months”.

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