Cardinal Vincent Nichols has joined Anglican, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposing a ban on public worship in the forthcoming lockdown.
The letter says that public worship plays an important role in supporting vulnerable people and that there is no evidence to justify its prohibition.
“We understand entirely that the country faces significant challenges and the reasons behind the Government’s decision to bring in new measures,” the letter says. “But we strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time.”
They argue that public worship has been shown to be Covid-secure and that the UK’s faith communities have made an important contribution in responding to the pandemic.
“Much has been made of the adverse impact on mental health of volunteer and paid carers during this pandemic. Common Worship is an important way of sustaining the wellbeing, and ability to serve, of people of faith who volunteer. The benefits of public worship are scientifically well attested.
“For this reason alone, given the size and duration of the contribution of faith communities to the pandemic response, and the importance of sustaining their commitment and wellbeing, public worship is essential, should be classed by government as necessary and supported to continue.
“It enables and sustains people of faith in contributing to the service and health of our nation.”
The letter is signed by faith leaders including the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London, as well as the Chief Rabbi, and Muslim and Hindu leaders.
The letter comes as minister come under increasing pressure to allow public worship during the second lockdown.
Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth is the latest Catholic prelate to call on the government to rethink its strategy, expressing his “dismay” at the cessation of public acts of worship.
In a letter to MPs in his diocese, Bishop O’Toole said that it is “incumbent on the Government to be transparent and produce the evidence that fully justifies its decision to ban communal worship,” adding: “If such evidence cannot be produced, then the decision to ban public worship in Catholic churches should be removed from the proposed legislation.”