By Vatican News staff writer
The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has joined UK faith leaders in writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying there is “no scientific justification for the wholesale suspension of public worship” due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
A national lockdown is due to come into effect on 5 November.
Public worship is secure
In a letter, faith representatives say, “We strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time.”
They also highlight “the contribution made by the UK’s faith communities in responding to the pandemic.”
The letter states that “public worship is secure” and that in the last six months faith communities have “collaborated closely with Ministers and officials to keep people safe.”
The faith leaders note that during the first period of restrictions, they ceased public worship in buildings and moved to an online approach.
Commitment of faith communities
They also underline that they have “provided significant resources to support our communities and our nation, from practical support such as foodbanks and volunteering, to promoting social cohesion, mental health and coping during these months.”
The letter stresses that “common worship is constitutive of our identity, and essential for our self-understanding. Without the worshipping community, our social action and support cannot be energised and sustained indefinitely.”
Common worship for health and well being
It adds, “Common worship is also necessary to sustain the health and wellbeing of faith community members engaged in caring for others whether paid or voluntary.”
“The health benefits of attending worship are well known, and the burden of psychological and physical ill-health from isolation and during the pandemic are increasingly well understood. This is especially so for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. Public Health England’s own review found that faith communities were an important connect for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people during this period,” the letter states.
Moreover, it reads, “it is a well-known and well-studied phenomenon that people turn to faith communities as a way of coping with trauma and grief.”