London, England, Mar 24, 2020 / 10:30 am
The bishops of the United Kingdom have ordered the closure of all Catholic churches, even though they were exempted from shuttering by the countrywide stay-at-home order.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued the lockdown directive on Monday evening. The rules restrict when and for what purpose someone is permitted to leave their home; these four reasons include shopping for necessities, exercise, medical needs, and traveling to and from work for jobs deemed essential.
Houses of worship were specifically exempted from the stay-at-home order, and the guidance provides that “places of worship should remain open for solitary prayer” despite the suspension of public religious services.
Going beyond the government guidance, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) made the decision to close all churches to the public until further notice.
“Following on from the PM's message last night, all churches must close and remain closed,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Tuesday. “It is essential that we all follow this instruction, painful and difficult though it is. As our churches remain closed, let us open our hearts even wider,” he said.
In a video posted on Twitter, Cardinal Nichols said it was “not essential” for people to go to their churches to pray.
“We have to learn more and more that our prayer is rooted in our hearts and can be shared with our families. Open churches will only tempt people to travel. And that is not good practice now,” he said.
Nichols encouraged people to use the internet and other technology to “encourage one another.”