Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury joined Nichols in welcoming the government’s decision.
In a June 8 statement, he said: “I am delighted the government has recognized how the priority of prayer and worship are central to the common good and to the re-building of society after the lockdown.”
“Every church stands as an invitation to pray and it was one of the most painful aspects of our national lockdown to see every church door locked and barred as people sought places of prayer and the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.”
“The opening of church doors for private prayer will form a first step towards the public celebration of the Mass and the sacraments.”
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the government has permitted churches to host funerals, under strict conditions, and to livestream liturgies, but not to perform baptisms or weddings.
Nichols had put increasing pressure on the government to set a date for reopening churches with a series of public statements.
In a May 14 radio interview he called for “a bit more sensitivity from the government” towards the concerns of Catholics. In his Pentecost Sunday homily May 31, he questioned why car showrooms were being permitted to reopen ahead of churches.
Other English bishops also made public appeals for churches to reopen, including Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark, Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, and Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth.
The bishops in turn have come under pressure to reopen churches. A video by lay Catholics appealing for churches to be reopened has been viewed more than 10,000 times since it was posted April 22.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In a May 1 message, the metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales acknowledged the pain of Catholics who cannot receive the sacraments because of the coronavirus lockdown.
In the message, entitled “A People who Hope in Christ”, published May 1, the archbishops said that while livestreamed Masses nourished faith, they were no substitute for public liturgies.
“We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” they wrote.
“The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and well-being.’ We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.”
Public Masses resumed June 1 in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel which belongs to the Diocese of Portsmouth. As the island is a self-governing British crown dependency and not part of the U.K., it is able to set its own rules.