Diocese of Salford
The Right To Pray Together In A Crisis
Places of worship are essential. Acts of communal worship should be allowed in them in any future Lockdown or tiered system of restrictions.
We recognise that the current national measures are a matter of public health. They are to promote the flourishing, well-being and protection of the population.
We believe that Places of Worship play a positive and fundamental role in this strategy. We provide food-banks and communal support for people who are clinically vulnerable, socially isolated or in any form of need. But we also observe regular acts of worship, according to current guidelines for physical distancing and hygiene. These contribute positively to the mental, spiritual and emotional health of those who take part, whilst not endangering their physical health in any way that can be measured.
Acts of communal worship, especially for people within our communities, are an essential part of our identity. The Freedom and Practice of Religion is recognised, in the UK and across the globe, as a core Human Right. It says so in our Equalities legislation. It cannot simply be put alongside any “right” to shop, to eat out, or to attend a leisure facility, healthy though these are. Places and acts of worship should not be reckoned alongside non-essential shops, gyms or other indoor meeting-places. They are altogether different – and provide people with the energy, hope and inspiration they need to keep going, especially in these dark and challenging times.
The nation’s health is enhanced, not threatened, by acts of religious worship. As the Government plans ahead, we look forward to seeing them included and promoted, not suspended and forbidden. Please respect what they mean and what they are for those who take part in them.
Rt Rev John Arnold
Bishop of Salford
In the hope of generating a Faith-wide response, I have been asked, on behalf of the Greater Manchester Faith Leaders, to publicise the above statement as widely as possible among the Catholic community, asking that we alert our local M.P.s about the importance, and safety, of places of worship, and that they remain open in any future lockdown, being considered in a different category from non-essential shops, gyms and theatres. We hope that by circulating this statement through our different Faiths, and asking for a national response, all M.P.s may be made aware of the importance attached by so many to the need to gather for public worship.
If you feel it appropriate, please contact your local Member of Parliament.