Cardinal calls on government not to close churches again if new Covid restrictions have to be imposed

The Archbishop of Westminster has urged the government not to bring back restrictions on churches to combat Covid.

Speaking to the BBC before Christmas Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said people can “make good judgements themselves” and “understand the risk”.

“We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”

In his homily at a packed service in the cathedral he said the pandemic was a time of “great vulnerability”.

He urged the congregation not to respond by “putting up barriers” or by trying to make sure that they, or those close to them, or other citizens of wealthy countries “come first, whatever the cost”.

“The vulnerability of the Christ-child challenges such thinking,” he said.

Asked about his message to the government about the possibility of further Covid restrictions, Cardinal Nichols told the BBC: “I would sincerely appeal that they do not again consider closing churches and places of worship.”

He said he believed it had been demonstrated that large, airy spaces such as churches were “not places where we spread the virus”.

“I think this country has shown that people can make good judgements themselves. We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk. We know what we should do. Most people are sensible and cautious. We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop’s plea comes as the UK reported a new record of 122,186 infections on Christmas Eve, although the head of the UK Health Security Agency said data suggesting the Omicron variant may be less likely to cause serious illness offered “a glimmer of Christmas hope”.

Masks are compulsory inside churches this Christmas and many churches are live-streaming services for those isolating or unable to attend in person.

Later today, Pope Francis will deliver his Christmas message and blessing from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Story and picture courtesy BBC News: