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‘Reopen churches for funerals’ MPs urge CofE

A letter signed by 36 Tory MPs has urged the Church of England to re-open churches for small-scale funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the Lord Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England, the MPs air their concerns that “the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper commital in the church of their wish”.

They are asking for the Church to allow clergy to officiate at funerals in their churches while observing social distancing and appropriate safety measures.

Churches closed in March, with funerals only allowed to take place at the graveside or in crematoria.

MPs contend that government guidance allows for funeral services to take place in churches with “proper measures in place”. The Church should “consider, most intently, the pain and anguish of those families unable to have a funeral”. They urged the current virtual meeting of the House of Bishops to consider this.

Responding to the letter, the Reverend Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England's adviser on healthcare policy, told the BBC: "The death of a loved one is painful under any circumstances and the current situation has made this all the more difficult for those who have been bereaved.

"The House of Bishops has been meeting frequently and advice is reviewed regularly and updated as circumstances allow.

"The Church of England has consistently stated that it will always ensure that, where requested, a priest is present to conduct a funeral service, either at a crematorium or at the churchyard.

"Any suggestion that the Church of England is responsible for 'direct cremation' could not be further from the truth – that is against both Government guidance and the Church's commitment to provide pastoral care for all."

"The advice not to conduct funeral services in church buildings – and it is advice, not instruction – was given because of concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct funerals safely, including being able to deep-clean church buildings between services."

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