Church leaders urge re-opening for individual prayer

Churches have been closed amid the pandemic. Credit: UTV

The leaders of Northern Ireland’s main churches have jointly called for the re-opening of places of worship for individual private prayer.

Churches have been closed over the past month due to the coronavirus lockdown.

In a statement, the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches said their representatives had discussed the matter in a video conference on Friday.

They accepted it would "not be appropriate" at this time for traditional weekly gatherings to make a full return.

However, they said individual visits to church buildings for private prayer would be a "different and separate matter", and could be done safely.

The statement said: “While we all look forward to the day when we can again gather together for collective worship in our churches, we accept that at this time it would not be appropriate to consider a full return to such gatherings, apart from the limited number of people who are able to meet for funeral services.

“At this time, we are not calling on the Executive to remove the current general restrictions on gathering together for church services, but we are asking that the issue is kept under regular review, so that when it is safe to do so there can be an easing of these restrictions.

“The issue of church buildings being permitted to open for individual visits and private prayer, where this is desired locally and can be done so safely with appropriate social distancing in place, is however a different and a separate matter.

“Where the medical and scientific advice indicates that this limited step is possible, we would urge the Executive to consider easing this particular restriction sooner rather than later.”

The Executive is set to publish its pathway to recovery this week.

Concluding their statement, the church leaders said: "Over the past number of weeks, we have seen the vast majority of the people embracing these challenging, but very necessary, restrictions - working together for the benefit and good of all.

"We give thanks for this demonstration of love and concern for all in our community.

“As we enter into the second full month of this emergency on our island, we urge everyone to remain resolute and vigilant, encouraging one another on, so that we can come through this together."

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