A group of Roman Catholic bishops have called on the Scottish Government to lift its cap on the number of congregants.
They were responding to the First Minister’s recent announcement that churches will be able to reopen from Monday 5 April, or “a few days earlier”, but no more than 20 worshippers may be present, regardless of building capacity.
Children have already started to return to school; and colleges and universities will have seen a partial return of students weeks before the ban on public worship is lifted.
The group stressed that it would “be more appropriate for each church building to accommodate a congregation in proportion to its size rather than on the basis of an imposed number”.
The bishops asked the Scottish Government to implement a similar system to that in retail – where numbers are determined according to floor-space and social distancing requirements. This would bring it in line with the rest of the UK.
The statement stressed that social distancing and hygiene control had been, and would continue to be, observed by congregations in the country.
In its route map out of lockdown, the Scottish Government said it recognises “the importance of individual and group worship to many people’s spiritual health and general wellbeing”.
But churches will only be allowed to re-open when stay-at-home requirements are lifted, and only on the “restricted-numbers basis”.
The 20-person limit was in place for Level 4 areas before the current lockdown prohibited all public worship in mainland Scotland.
A judicial review over the closure of places of worship in Scotland under Covid-19 measures is set to take place next week.