Covid-19: In Wales, As in France, Churches Close Their Doors

November 03, 2020
Cardiff Cathedral

A few days before France, Wales decreed a second general confinement, which does not spare Catholic places of worship either. Welsh bishops have protested the closure of churches, while elsewhere in France and Europe the announcement of the re-containment raises concern as Christmas approaches.

The Cardiff Cathedral bell tower rang out six mournful times on the late afternoon of Friday, October 23, 2020, while the nave remains empty and the city streets are almost deserted.

And for good reason: Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford has decreed the full containment of Wales, due to a resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic.

A decision taken because of the increase in the number of cases of patients infected with Sars-CoV-2: on October 19, 2020, they were more than thirty thousand, out of a population of just over three million inhabitants. The Welsh health services were also demanding a strong decision, put under pressure by the eight hundred hospitalizations recorded to date.

Now, the Welsh are called to stay at home for at least two weeks. Non-essential businesses will have to close until November 9.

But the churches too. The Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CBCEW) was quick to express its discontent: in a statement released on October 20, Bishop George Stack, Bishop of Cardiff said he was “disappointed with the upcoming curfew measures which, once again, will see our sanctuaries closed to public worship.”

Extending confinement to places of worship is a measure disputed by the Welsh prelates who recall that, “since their reopening after the first confinement, Catholic churches have been spaces of safety and protection, as well as of peace and tranquility in these hectic days.”

Deploring “the longing for the Eucharist sorely felt by the faithful” in recent months, the Bishop of Cardiff still retains the hope of being able to leave the churches open for private prayer by the faithful: a small consolation prize. Neighboring Ireland has taken similar steps since October 21.

France has also decided to renew the ban on organized gatherings in churches after All Saints Day. Once again, the vagueness, unpreparedness, and haste of the executive do not bode well in France, as Christmas is fast approaching.

It is also necessary to complain that the episcopates, especially those who have already had to face the situation which is being reproduced today, also did not anticipate this prohibition, to respond to it in a stronger and more organized manner, in order to ensure a minimum of worship in the countries concerned.