Cardinal Nichols has predicted that the British government will soon abandon its ban on public worship.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, the cardinal said the rule was “not supported by any scientific evidence and clearly shows a misunderstanding of the importance of religious faith.”
“I think it will be changed,” he said. “As soon as possible, I hope to see places of worship opened again [for public worship].”
Under rules in place since Thursday, churches can remain open but only for private individual prayer and to host support groups and essential services, such as foodbanks. Clergy may also broadcast livestreamed services.
Cardinal Nichols has already written to the Prime Minister saying there is no justification for banning public worship. The letter, co-signed by other faith leaders including Justin Welby, said places of worship had gone to great lengths to make themselves Covid-secure and that religious services are part of the “essential fabric of the nation”.
However, a Downing Street spokesman said services had to stop as part of a “package of measures” to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Places of worship bring huge comfort and solace to people, especially during this challenging time, and that is why they will remain open during this period of new restrictions for private prayer and other vital functions like funerals,” the spokesman said.
“We’ll continue to work closely with senior faith leaders and the Places of Worship Taskforce, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”
Former prime minister Theresa May joined several Conservative MPs is speaking out against the measures in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Although she abstained from the final vote, she warned of the unintended consequences the ban on public worship could have.
“My concern is that the government today making it illegal to conduct an act of worship for the best of intentions sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions,” she said.