Archbishop of Westminster says coronavirus crisis helps people 'to see what is really important'

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has told ITV News how the coronavirus crisis offers an opportunity to "begin to see what is really important in our lives".

Leader of the Diocese of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said that faith can give "a focus and a shape" during current lockdown measures.

Cardinal Nichols also discussed the question of how to provide a fitting farewell to those who have died of the virus with "the most difficult time of this pandemic [...] coming up".

In an interview with ITV News presenter Julie Etchingham, the Cardinal urged people to "have a pattern" to their day during stay-at-home measures.

The religious leader urged the public to use the current restrictions as an opportunity for "a time of silence" in which to explore "our inner selves".

Cardinal Nichols also advised people to use this time as an "opportunity for quiet reflection".

Addressing recommended restrictions on the number of mourners at burials and funerals, the Cardinal said the church wanted to "insist that everybody who wishes have a minister of their religion present".

He added: "The rules allow with this, but it's going to be the practical working of these opportunities that might become very difficult as we enter the most difficult time of this pandemic, which as we know is coming up."

Westminster Cathedral closed its doors following the Prime Minister's lockdown measures. Credit: PA

For those without faith, the Cardinal said "we're all spiritual beings" and added that faith - in times like the current crisis - can "sustain us". He added:

"We're all spiritual beings. We all have that dimension to our lives. What faith does is give it a focus and a shape, but not truth.

"So I would hope that anybody who has never yet being introduced to a religious faith might find that that tempted during this time."

The Catholic leader suggested the public could use the current situation as an opportunity to explore religious faith.

Cardinal Nichols also pointed to how the coronavirus crisis had helped highlight "all sorts of signs of the goodness that is there," adding:

"I think everybody knows how much we owe to those who clean the streets and remove the rubbish and drive the trips.

"And of course in the health services, the nurses, the doctors, the specialists [...] the scientific experts who are working flatout and all of this is a great sense of a bond between us all."

Speaking to ITV News over a video call, Cardinal Nichols admitted the upcoming Easter celebrations looked "bleak" amid current lockdown measures.

But he also pointed to the "creativity" with which families and friends are continuing to communicate and share moments together while maintaining social distancing measures.

Cardinal Nichols urged those looking to celebrate Easter to "express that sense of belonging without physical contact".