Statement from the President and the Vice-President of
the Conference on the Prime Minister’s Statement
Saturday 31st October 2020
This evening, the Prime Minister announced further widespread restrictions in England
beginning on Thursday 5th November. The Government have published their New National
Restrictions Guidance on their website here. Whilst there was no formal announcement on Places
of Worship by the Prime Minister, there is clear guidance on this website that places of worship
will be required to end all acts of collective worship, except for funeral ceremonies. In response the
following statement is issued by the President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference.
The announcement of a new ‘national lockdown’ in England will, we know, bring
hardship, distress and suffering to many. We must hope and pray that this is an effective
strategy against a growing pandemic which has tragically taken so many lives already
and threatens so many more.
Faith communities have played a vital role in sustaining personal, spiritual and mental
health and encouraging vital charitable activities, which support hundreds of thousands
of people in all sections of the community, especially the most vulnerable. That critical
service towards the common good of all is created and sustained by communal worship
and prayer. Part of this selfless giving has been a strong ethic of responsibility in the
way in which we have reopened our churches so that essential worship has been
enabled. Our communities have done a great deal to make our churches safe places in
which all have been able to gather in supervised and disciplined ways.
It is thus a source of deep anguish now that the Government is requiring, once again, the
cessation of public communal worship. 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 combatting the virus. We ask the Government to produce this evidence that
justifies the cessation of acts of public worship.
To counter the virus we will, as a society, need to make sustained sacrifices for months
to come. In requiring this sacrifice, the Government has a profound responsibility to
show why it has taken particular decisions. Not doing so risks eroding the unity we
need as we enter a most difficult period for our country.
The Prime Minister has stated that the draft legislation will be placed before Parliament
on Monday 2nd November. Members of Parliament will have the opportunity to discuss
the issues and vote on the proposed national restrictions. In this short timeframe,
questions can be raised with our elected Members of Parliament regarding the cessation
of public common worship. They are in a position to require the Government to publish
the data that drives the decision to cease public worship under these restrictions.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP
President Vice-President