During the second coronavirus lockdown, a ban on regular church services was branded by Scotland’s Catholic bishops as ‘arbitrary and unjust’.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon argued that the change was “essential” to try to contain the modern, faster-spreading Covid-19 pressure – but the bishops replied by arguing that the decision of the UK government to keep churches and other places of worship open in England illustrates the “essential contribution” they make to the “spiritual well-being.” of people.
After the First Minister declared a second lockdown for mainland Scotland, church leaders responded with “dismay and confusion” saying places of worship will remain open only for weddings or funerals – where numbers must be restricted – and for broadcast services.
Ms. Sturgeon admitted at her monthly coronavirus briefing that the change would be “very unsettling” for many individuals.
“She added: “I recognize that people in religious groups derive great comfort from worshipping together, which is an especially difficult constraint to bear.
But at this point, we believe it is important to assist us with the overall task of getting the virus back under control.
“We will not maintain these restrictions any longer than necessary.”
The First Minister made the remarks as the Catholic bishops of Scotland said they would cooperate with and support the government in its efforts to protect “the common good.”
During the initial Covid-19 lockdown, churches and other religious centers were closed but reopened when restrictions were relaxed, with steps taken to curb the spread of the virus, including reducing the number of congregations.
The bishops said they were “puzzled by the decision” to include regular church services in the current lockdown in the light of those steps.
At the end of Mass, parishioners wearing face masks bless one another (Liam McBurney/PA)
“The strict measures taken since last March to ensure public safety in our churches have been effective,” they stressed.
“There was no evidence provided to support the inclusion of worship houses as sources of infection.
“These limitations would appear unreasonable and unfair to Catholics without such scientific proof.
“In addition, a significant number of other sectors that were similarly restricted last March in addition to public places of worship – such as construction, manufacturing, and professional sports – have now been freed to continue.”
They added: “We also note that in England the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual well-being of all citizens during this crisis has now been vindicated by the decision not to close places of worship, while the Scottish government appears to have retreated from this view, causing dismay and confusion.”
They argued that it was a “human right” to be able to engage in public worship, highlighting its “spiritual, social and psychological benefits” to be taken into account by ministers.
Ms. Sturgeon admitted that “these are terrible decisions and I don’t expect any person of faith to be happy about them.”
Even if they do so slowly, she appealed to people to realize that none of this is being done lightly.
I have no interest in closing somewhere where it is not necessary to do so,” the First Minister insisted.”
Yeah, that’s one of the ways in which Scotland differs from the UK, but also the fact that in order to get it under control, we decided to act much sooner on the curve of this wave of the pandemic.
“We are trying to act as cautiously as possible at the moment to prevent the situation from getting any worse,” he said.
“This virus transmits when people come together, so we need to reduce the places where people come together as much as possible,” he said.
“That involves really difficult things, including places of worship. It’s about taking away as many opportunities as possible for the virus to spread from one person to another.”