Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland's four main Christian denominations unite to extend suspension of in-person services until March 5

All four of Northern Ireland's main Christian denominations have extended their suspension of in-person church services and gatherings until March 5

ALL four of Northern Ireland's main Christian denominations have extended their suspension of in-person church services and gatherings until March 5.

In an echo of the common ground found by politicians in Stormont on the issue, statements from Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist leaders confirming the move all mirrored each other with identical wording.

They said told their respective flocks it was a response to the Executive's "unanimous" decision, "based on the strong recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Advisor, as a result of the continued extremely high level of transmission of the Covid-19 virus".

The Northern Catholic Bishops have encouraged parishes to continue to broadcast the celebration of Mass and other devotions and prayer services "knowing that faith and prayer can be a tremendous support to individuals and society during these difficult times".

All four churches said marriage, funeral, baptismal liturgies and drive-in services will continue, "subject to strict safety guidelines and regulations", and individual visits for private prayer are also allowed.

Each denomination also stressed: "While we acknowledge that there is both cost and disappointment in this for many, we see this decision as part of our response to the command of Jesus to love our neighbours.

"We continue to encourage as many people as possible to stay at home for the sake of health, life and the Common Good.

"Ultimately, as followers of Jesus, we are people of hope. As we journey through these dark and difficult days, we live in that hope, looking to the light that we find in Jesus."

Rev Trevor Gribben, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said he and the Moderator had written to all congregations informing them of the decision.

The four churches said they welcomed "that a similar position is being taken" by each of the leaders "and many other denominations and faith communities in response to the unequivocal message from public health authorities that as many people as possible stay at home at this time".

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