English cardinal: Stop closing churches because of COVID
LEICESTER, United Kingdom – As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to be briefed on the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has pleaded with the government not to close churches if restrictions are reimposed in England .
The Archbishop of Westminster was speaking to the BBC ahead of Christmas Eve mass, where he said churches were “not places where we are spreading the virus”.
The Omicron variant has surged in the UK over the past month, becoming the dominant variant in the country.
There were 122,186 confirmed cases on Friday, the latest figures available.
The UK’s constituent countries are primarily responsible for their own COVID policies, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have imposed restrictions on social gatherings from December 26, though these will be well below full foreclosure and have not closed the Houses of Worship.
Johnson has resisted the imposition of restrictions in England, but said he would not hesitate to change course if the data indicated it was necessary.
Over 82% of the eligible population received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while over 56% received a third booster dose. Data has also shown that the Omicron variant is less dangerous than previous types of COVID, which means it causes fewer people to go to the hospital. However, it is highly transmissible and the large number of people infected with the virus could put pressure on the National Health Service (NHS).
Ahead of Christmas, Johnson urged people to get their boosters.
The Prime Minister said: “get stung not only for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet”.
âIt is, after all, the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this huge festival – that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves,â he said.
In his remarks to the BBC, Nichols sent a message to Johnson and his government ministers: âI would sincerely ask that they no longer consider closing churches and places of worship. “
âI think this country has shown that people can make good judgments themselves. We’re at this point of saying we understand the risk. We know what to do. Most people are sane and careful. We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do, âthe cardinal said.
Meanwhile, the Bishops of Scotland – who have a separate Episcopal Conference in England and Wales – have decided to delay the reimposition of the compulsory Sunday Mass, which was due to begin on New Years.
âAs Advent began, the Bishops of Scotland looked forward to welcoming the faithful back to Holy Mass and foresaw that the reestablishment of Sunday obligation might be possible as we begin the New Year. Unfortunately, the situation has seriously worsened and the reinstatement of the obligation will be postponed to a more favorable time, âthe bishops said in a statement.
“For us Sunday is always a holy day, and we invite those who cannot be with us in person to continue to join us in prayer and spiritual communion either through personal or family prayers or through Mass celebrations online, “the statement read. continued.
âWe ask everyone to continue praying for a quick end to the pandemic and for the good health of you and your loved ones in 2022. We also pray for all those who have passed away in 2021 and those who are grieving. May Our Lady of the Health of the Sick pray for us and that Saints AndrÃ© and Marguerite protect us â, declared the bishops.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome