Tory MPs call for funerals to be held inside churches again | Politics

A group of Tory MPs has urged the Church of England to allow funerals to be held in churches again on a small scale.

Former cabinet ministers Liam Fox and Theresa Villiers are among the 36 Tories who have written to bishops to argue the “the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper committal in the church of their wish”.

Church of England clergy are conducting ceremonies at crematoriums and outside in churchyards but not inside church buildings because of the risks of the spread of coronavirus.

The letter from Conservatives, organised by West Dorset MP Chris Loder and signed by 35 colleagues, said: “The grief of bereavement is being translated to trauma in many cases, especially where it is resulting in the tragedy of direct cremation.

“The government guidance is clear: funerals, with proper measures in place, are permitted and indeed encouraged.”

Ahead of a virtual meeting of bishops on Tuesday, they urged the Church of England to “consider, most intently, the pain and anguish of those families unable to have a funeral” and allow their “compassion to shine through in your considerations and deliberations today”.

In response, the Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s adviser on healthcare policy, said: “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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