The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark has written to the prime minister urging him to allow churches to open their doors for individual visitors and private prayer.
In a letter sent to Boris Johnson this week, the Most Revd John Wilson wrote: "Since the Government's decision, on 23 March 2020, to close places of worship our churches have remained shut.
"We accepted this as part of the important strategic effort to save lives and contain the spread of Covid-19.
"Important Christian festivals during Holy Week and Easter all took place behind closed doors, each priest celebrating alone without a congregation.
"As restrictions have been lifted, there is growing frustration that churches remain closed for private, individual, visits of prayer. This comes when restrictions on access to other 'non-essential' facilities are being relaxed."
The Archdiocese of Southwark covers south London and Kent, and claims a total weekly Sunday Mass attendance of more than 80,000 across its 175 parishes.
The Archbishop continued: "For Catholics, access to church buildings is spiritually essential, something recognised by other Governments internationally.
"Respectfully, I believe that it is now time for churches to be allowed to open for individual visits for private prayer.
"Supervision and hygiene regimes can be put in place akin to those in supermarkets and any churches that cannot implement these would remain closed."
The Archbishop goes on to argue that if non-essential shops are allowed to open whilst churches must stay closed, this would represent "an infringement of both religious freedom and equity".
Since Easter, Archbishop Wilson has been celebrating Mass each Sunday morning at the altar of St George's Cathedral, with the service broadcast on YouTube.
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