The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged the UK government to respect Church autonomy in the fight against the coronavirus.

Cardinal Nichols told the BBC that people can “make good judgments themselves” and should not be subject to further restrictions.

“We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do,” Nichols said.

During his Christmas homily for the Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, the cardinal said the pandemic was a time of “great vulnerability” but invited the congregation not to respond by “putting up barriers.”

Asked by the BBC about his advice to the government about how to deal with the coronavirus going forward, Nichols said: “I would sincerely appeal that they do not again consider closing churches and places of worship.”

It has been demonstrated that large, airy spaces such as churches are “not places where we spread the virus,” he said.

The streets are still outside St Paul’s Cathedral on January 7, 2021 in London, England. (Alex McBride/Getty Images)

“I think this country has shown that people can make good judgments themselves,” he continued. “We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk. We know what we should do.”

“Most people are sensible and cautious,” he added. “We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”

Masks are currently compulsory inside churches in the UK as part of the many restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

The head of the UK Health Security Agency said that the Omicron variant appears less likely to cause serious illness, which offers “a glimmer of Christmas hope.”

For their part, the Catholic bishops of Scotland, who have a separate bishops conference from England and Wales, have decided to postpone the return of the Sunday Mass obligation which had been scheduled for the start of January.

“At the beginning of Advent the Bishops of Scotland looked forward to welcoming the faithful back to Holy Mass and anticipated that the restoration of the Sunday Obligation might be possible as we begin the New Year,” the statement reads.

“Sadly, there has been a serious worsening of the situation and the restoration of the obligation will be postponed until a more favourable time,” it says.

“Despite the rules and precautions, please remember that churches have been consistently recognised throughout the pandemic as safe places, where every precaution is taken to keep people safe,” they reiterate.

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