Church leaders in Northern Ireland have described the limited reopening of churches as a “sign of hope”.
Church buildings can now open for private prayer, and drive-in services are permitted as long as social distancing is maintained.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland all welcomed the move, describing it as a “much-needed sign of hope”.
In a statement the church leaders said: “We appreciate the recognition in this recovery plan of the importance of the local church, and public worship, in the lives of many people.
“There is a strong desire to increase the level of pastoral contact where that can be done safely.”
They added: “In our churches we are currently undertaking risk assessments and putting in place response plans that reflect the unique circumstances of each local context and will be sustainable in the long-term.”
Earlier this month, the Church of England recommended a ‘phased approach’ to reopening churches.
Bishops agreed a plan to allow for a gradual re-opening of churches whilst continuing to apply social distancing measures.
In a statement, the bishops made clear that while an imminent return to normality was unlikely, it was time “to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared”.