Churches and other places of worship will be allowed to reopen for private prayer from June 15 in England, the government has announced.
Worshippers will be allowed to “reflect and pray”, but must adhere to social distancing norms. Masses, weddings and other services will not be permitted until a later date. The government also said that the reopening would only be permitted if its tests for lockdown easing are met.
Minister had been coming under increasing pressure after it was announced churches would remain closed while non-essential businesses could reopen. Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop John Wilson both called last week for the government to allow churches to reopen for private prayer.
Speaking on Saturday, 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.”
A Downing Street 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.”
Cardinal Nichols welcomed the move, saying it was the “first, measured step in restoring” church services. It is important that “every care is taken to ensure that the guidance given for this limited opening is fully observed, not least by those entering our churches,” he added.