LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A leading Catholic group is urging the ongoing UK COVID-19 Inquiry to look at the impact of the pandemic on people of faith.

The Catholic Union especially wants the inquiry to look at the effect of the closure of places of worship.

The Inquiry began on June 28, 2022, and n order to allow a full and focused examination of all of the different aspects of the COVID-18 pandemic that began in 2020.

A lockdown was ordered by the UK government on March 23, 2020, banning all non-essential travel and contact with other people, and shut schools, businesses, venues and gathering places, including churches. Although later lifted in the summer, a new lockdown was implemented that November.

All restrictions were lifted in most of the UK in February 2022. Over 230,000 people are reported to have died from the virus.

A Catholic Union survey last year found that 91 percent of responders thought that places of worship should be classed as “essential services” in any future pandemic and never again be forced to close.

Additionally, 61 percent of people said that their physical or mental health had suffered as a result of churches being closed during COVID.

The Catholic Union has shared the results of the survey in full to the head of the inquiry and has offered to brief the Inquiry team and give evidence as part of the ongoing public hearings.

In the letter to the inquiry, Catholic Union states that “While many people endured hardships during the pandemic, there was a deep sense that decision makers did not fully understand the importance of churches to people of faith and were too slow in allowing them to reopen.”

Catholic Union President, Baroness Sheila Hollins, described the survey results as “shocking” and said that “it’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”

“It is vital that the COVID Inquiry properly considers the decisions to close and reopen churches during the pandemic,” she said.

“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 the results of the Catholic Union’s survey that places of worship should never be forced to close again,” Hollins added.

Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, said many Catholics have memories from Easter 2020 when they watched services on laptops and phones.

“Thankfully those days seem like a distant memory, and we will gather in churches again this year to celebrate this great feast. But our response to the pandemic is something that needs careful scrutiny, especially to learn lessons from the future,” he said.

“With so many groups and individuals having their say as part of the COVID Inquiry, it is only right that the voices of Catholics are also heard,” he added.

“Our members and supporters sent a clear message in our survey last year about the importance of churches and the impact of their closure on people’s lives. We are working hard to make sure these views are heard by policy makers and politicians, so that places of worship are never again forced to close,” Barker said.

Public hearings at the Inquiry are expected to last into 2026 with the Inquiry making a report and recommendations to the Government after it ends.

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