LEICESTER, United Kingdom – England’s Catholic bishops say they are “delighted” that public worship will resume when the national COVID-19 lockdown expires on Dec. 2.

On that date, England will have a three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, but the UK government has confirmed that public worship will be allowed even under the strictest Tier 3 level.

“This decision reflects the importance of the right of all people to express their faith in worship, but more importantly, it is an acknowledgement of the active collaboration the church has had with public officials in developing COVID-secure protocols in our churches,“ said Father Christopher Thomas, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“As we move forward, it is incumbent on all who come to worship God in our churches to play their part in keeping themselves and others safe by following all of the guidance that has been prepared,” he continued. “Through our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and other sacraments celebrated in the Church, the works of charity which have been expressed through Catholic charities and communities over the last nine months finds its source and goal.”

The bishops had questioned the government’s decision to end public worship when the lockdown began on Nov. 5, saying the Catholic Church had enacted adequate health and safety protocols to make churches safe for people to attend.

Scotland, which has also enacted a tier system for coronavirus restrictions, did not take steps to stop public worship, although Northern Ireland announced it would do so during a two-week “fire break” to slow the spread of the virus.

Under the UK’s devolved system, the central government is only responsible for COVID-19 protocols in England, with the regional governments having competence in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

All four of the UK nations have come together to allow special “Christmas bubbles” to be formed involving at most three households from Dec. 23-27. Travel will be allowed across all parts of the UK to form the bubble during those five days.

The UK has seen 1.56 million cases of COVID-19 with 56,533 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

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