Bishop of Northampton leads an "army of prayer" to help reopen places of worship
The Bishop of Northampton David Oakley is asking the county's church-goers to write to MPs and become "an army of prayer" to help reopen places of worship.
Latest Government guidelines bracketed churches with hairdressers, beauty salons, pubs, and cinemas as places likely to remain closed until at least July 4 as part of the Covid-19 lockdown.
In an open letter to the diocese, Bishop David said: "The coronavirus has achieved something which persecution and war has not done, the closure of our churches and the inability to gather together to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.
"Even during the dark days of martyrdom and persecution, Catholics have gathered in small groups to celebrate Holy Mass.
"A deadly and highly contagious virus has brought this about and it has also brought to the fore a serious hunger in our communities. Many are missing the solace of sitting quietly in a church for a few moments before the Blessed Sacrament.
"Many are yearning to gather together and to celebrate Holy Mass and to receive the sacraments.
"Here in the Northampton Diocese, a small task force has met to put together a strategic plan. We need to ensure everyone is safe and this will mean it is not possible to open every church immediately.
"But I want to insist the well of pastoral hunger in my heart, and that of all our clergy, is as deep as the spiritual need in your heart. As soon as we can safely open wide the doors of our churches, we will be standing ready to do so.
"In the meantime, please write to your MP and tell him of your need. We all need to become an army of prayer, asking heaven to change hearts and minds."
Many of the county churches are live-streaming services for worshippers since doors were closed ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown in mid-March.
Talks are taking place between faith leaders and church leaders over when and how places of worship can open safely for some of the practices where social distancing can take place, such as private prayer, potentially earlier than July 4.