CNA Staff, Nov 2, 2020 / 05:45 am
Bishops in England have urged the government to permit Catholics to attend public Masses during a second nationwide lockdown beginning Thursday.
The bishops issued a sharp challenge to the government after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Oct. 31 that England would enter a four-week lockdown following a surge in coronavirus cases.
On the evening of the announcement, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool said that the government’s decision to halt collective worship would cause “deep anguish.”
“Whilst we understand the many difficult decisions facing the government, we have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever that would make the banning of communal worship, with all its human costs, a productive part of combating the virus. We ask the government to produce this evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship,” wrote the president and vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
More than 5,000 people had signed a petition as of Nov. 2 asking the authorities to allow corporate worship as well as congregational singing. The government will respond to the petition if it gains 10,000 signatures.
The Catholic Union, a lay group dedicated to the defense of Catholic values in Parliament and public life, also criticized the restriction on public Masses.
Sir Edward Leigh, the group’s president, said: “While it’s some comfort that there is no return to the blanket church closures we saw earlier in the year, these new measures are still a huge blow to Catholics across the country. People had just got used to going to Mass with face masks and social distancing. We are now almost back to square one."
Leigh, a veteran Conservative MP, wrote to the Prime Minister Nov. 2 proposing a compromise in which the government would permit religious services as long as those attending applied online beforehand.