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UK govt considers expanding Sunday shopping, continuing ban on public church services

Supermarket workers are worried about how the plan will affect time with their families, while Catholics expressed outrage that churches are still being suppressed.
Wed Jun 10, 2020 - 11:20 am EST
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom. shutterstock.com

UNITED KINGDOM, June 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The U.K. government is reportedly considering a plan to suspend COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday shopping hours. This comes at a time while the public celebration of Mass is still prohibited due to the pandemic, despite churches being allowed to open for private prayer on June 15.

A report published in The Times on Saturday said that “Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser are said to be in favour of the move,” which would allow large supermarkets to open for longer on Sundays than the current maximum of six hours.

Reports in the U.K. media yesterday claim that a YouGov poll that questioned 4,300 British adults indicates that a majority of the general public are in favor of the move, which is being touted as a way to boost the economy after the coronavirus lockdown.

But shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has said she is “not at all convinced that this will actually help to get the economy back on track” and questioned how the plans will affect the lives of supermarket workers.

“We’ve just been applauding our frontline workers, supermarket workers are amongst those," she said.

"They are deeply worried about what this all means for them in terms of time with their families.”

Meanwhile, the government has said the public celebration of Mass and other public services will not be permitted to occur when churches and other places of worship are allowed to reopen for private prayer on June 15.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the U.K. lobby group Christian Concern, has challenged the idea that shops will be allowed to open for longer hours while churches will still see their activities restricted.

“This restriction on church ministry is unprecedented,” Williams said. “The government should not be criminalising prayer meetings, church services or sacraments.”

“Churches can easily be made safer than supermarkets, but the government does not trust churches enough to even allow small-scale informal prayer meetings with appropriate precautions,” a Christian Concern press statement reads.

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and the U.K.’s senior Catholic cleric, has said, “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.”

Nichols, who was a member of the government’s “task force” established to discuss the re-opening of churches thanked government officials for the announcement that churches will be allowed to reopen for private prayer, in a statement published earlier this week.

“This first step enables us to learn and prepare for those that will take us to a fuller use of our churches, for the celebration of Mass and other sacraments,” he said.

“We await that time with deep longing but patient understanding that the protection of the health of our society, especially of the most vulnerable, is a proper cause for caution and care.”

In an open letter published last month, Catholic clergy led by former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Joseph Zen, and Janis Pujats reminded politicians around the world that “[t]he State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church.”

“This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as Pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments,” the signatories stated.


  boris johnson, catholic, coronavirus, quarantine, religious freedom, vincent nichols

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