During the Covid-19 lockdown, Bishop Philip objected to the closing of churches and even wrote to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Here Louise Collyer-Hamlin from the Catholic Union of Great Britain shares news of the impact of closing churches and other places of worship during the Covid-19 pandemic which has been revealed in a major new study…
A survey carried out by the Catholic Union found that 62 percent of people said that their physical or mental health had been affected by church closures. The survey also found that 90 percent of people thought that places of worship should be treated as “essential” services alongside food shops and healthcare facilities in any future pandemic, meaning they would not be forced to close.
The survey of almost 1,000 people is the first major study of Catholic attitudes towards the closure of churches during the pandemic and the impact this had on people’s wellbeing. One responder to the survey described the church closures as “one of the most distressing experiences of my life”. Another said, “I became very depressed – it felt a part of me was missing.” Someone else added, “I live alone and going to daily mass is the most important event in my life”.
Catholic Union President, Baroness Hollins, described the results as “shocking”. The Crossbench peer, who recently took over as the group’s President, said that “it’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”Other findings from the survey include:
- Only 25 percent of responders thought that it was necessary to close churches and other places of worship by law at the start of the pandemic
- 93 percent of responders did not think that politicians gave enough consideration to people’s faith when making decisions during the pandemic
- 89 percent of responders said that it was unhelpful having different legal restrictions on churches across different regions and nations of the UK
- The survey also found a resilience in Mass attendance, with less than 10 percent of people saying that they go to church less frequently or not at all since the pandemic.
The Catholic Union will use the results from the survey to inform its evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, which is currently taking evidence from senior politicians and advisers including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The study puts further pressure on the Chair of the Inquiry, Baroness Hallet, to properly consider the decisions around the closure and reopening of places of worship during the pandemic as part of the Government’s independent inquiry. Last month, the Government Minister responsible for faith and community during the first lockdown, Lord Greenhalgh, said that the decisions to close places of worship was “outrageous” and in a Tweet said that defending church lockdowns was a “ministerial low” for him.
President of the Catholic Union, Baroness Hollins, comments: “These results are distressing. They confirm that the lockdown of churches was not only hugely unpopular, but had a real impact on people’s wellbeing. The increase in the number of people feeling lonely or depressed as a direct consequence of the closures is particularly shocking. It is vital that the Covid Inquiry properly considers the decisions to close and reopen churches during the pandemic. There is a very strong sense that faith and faith communities were pushed to one side when decisions were made, and this needs to be addressed in the learning from the Inquiry. It’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”