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CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Derry bishops urge NI Executive to reconsider cemetery closures

Bishop Donal McKeown

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown blessing the graves in the city cemetery on Easter Sunday

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, and the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Donal McKeown, have urged the Northern Ireland Executive to reconsider the decision to close all cemeteries during the COVID-19 emergency.

Bishop Forster has pointed to what he called “the mixed signals” in the emergency legislation passed last month which allows public parks to remain open but forces cemeteries to close.

“We’re literally ‘standing on holy ground’ when we’re talking about this issue,” Bishop Forster said, “because cemeteries are a place of memory, they’re a place of grief, they’re also a place of hope and resolution as well.”

Cemeteries were places where people tended to go in their ones and twos, the Bishop said yesterday. “We’ve seen a lot of wisdom in how citizens have responded to the COVID-19 crisis and I’d love the Executive to look at it again.”

Bishop McKeown said cemeteries were still open in the Republic and in Britain, and he’s hoping for a change of heart by the Northern Ireland Executive. “I think it’s a very difficult area,” he said. “I appreciate the politicians are struggling to get things right here, but we really would like to get some sense of logic from them as to their motivation for having this particular legislation.”

Bishop McKeown said the governments had worked very hard to cover the whole area of the economy and health, but huge weight had also to be given to the emotional and spiritual needs of people, particularly at a time of bereavement, and especially in the current circumstances

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