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Churches given green light to reopen for private prayer


Churches and other places of worship are set to open for private prayer from June 15, the Government has announced.


Individuals are expected to be able to "reflect and pray" while adhering to social-distancing rules - but worship groups, weddings and other services will still not be permitted.

Downing Street said the changes would only be made if the Government's five tests for easing lockdown are met.


Places of worship come under step three of the Government's road map to lift restrictions, and are not due to fully reopen until at least July 4.


Ministers had been warned that worshippers felt "disappointment and hurt" at not being able to visit places of worship, despite some shops being reopened.

A Government taskforce with faith leaders was launched last month to develop a plan to enable the phased and safe reopening of religious buildings.


The Church of England closed all of its buildings on March 24, meaning funerals could only take place at crematoriums or the graveside. Clergy were encouraged to live-stream worship from their own homes.


Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Ensuring places of worship can open again, beginning with private prayer by individuals has been my priority.


"Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.


"I'm pleased the Prime Minister has announced that this is expected to happen from June 15. As Communities Secretary, I have worked with faith leaders and representatives to prepare guidance that ensures this can be done safely.


"People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way.

"As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship."


A Number 10 spokeswoman added: "The Prime Minister recognises how important it is, at this unprecedented time, for people to have the space to reflect and pray, to connect with their faith, and to be able to mourn for their loved ones.


"The PM is so grateful to people of all faiths and none, who have followed the social distancing guidelines, and in doing so, protected their communities.


"We plan to open up places of worship for individual prayer in a safe, Covid-secure way that does not risk further transmission."


Pleased to announce that from 15 June, places of worship will be able to open for individual prayer. Thank you to all the faith leaders who are working with me to ensure this is done safely.


I know that for millions across the country this news has been long awaited. pic.twitter.com/i6uxrf1Xub


— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) June 6, 2020


The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally - who chairs the Church of England's Recovery Group, welcomed the Government's announcement that church buildings can open for private, individual prayer.


She said: "This is the start of the journey for church buildings to open up safely in line with Government advice, and we look forward to their detailed guidance on enabling this first step to happen."


Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, expressed gratitude for the "great blessing" of churches reopening.


He added: "This first step enables us to learn and prepare for those that will take us to a fuller use of our churches, for the celebration of Mass and other sacraments."

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