SALISBURY, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - English cathedrals that voluntarily closed for worship fearing the Wuhan virus have readily re-opened as vaccination centers for the State-run National Health Service (NHS).
"A sign of hope! We're incredibly proud to be working with the NHS on the COVID-19 vaccination program," the formerly Catholic cathedral, famous for preserving one of only four surviving 1215 copies of the Magna Carta, tweeted.
On Saturday, the Gothic edifice welcomed a thousand vaccinees over the age of 80 to the strains of soothing organ music performed on the cathedral's majestic Father Willis organ.
"The teaching and priorities of Jesus have been superseded by the concerns of the NHS," theologian and cultural commentator Fr. Athanasius St. Michel told Church Militant.
"The Church of England is trying to be useful by offering its cathedrals as medical waiting rooms. But it can only do so because it has lost all sense of the sacred. If it ever understood the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it does so no longer," he reflected.
"With its obsession for physical health through a vaccine, it has lost all sight of the need for the salvation of the soul, as it closes its doors to worshippers in search of the sacrament for their soul and admits only those in search of medicine that will protect the body," Fr. Athanasius noted.
The Very Rev. Nicholas Papadopulos, dean of Salisbury, insisted that the building, formerly known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was engaged in God's work.
"This place has stood here for 800 years to give glory to God, and to serve the city and the region. What better way could there be of doing that than hosting Salisbury's stage in the vaccination program. It is absolutely wonderful!" Papadopulos exclaimed.
Papadopulos claimed the vaccination program was "life-saving" and "offers real hope in these difficult times," as the cathedral continues to remain shut for liturgical services even though there are no legal restrictions to public worship in England.
"Loving one's neighbor has gone hand in hand with loving God. Never before has it taken over and caused worship to be banished," the English historian emphasized.
"This decision to replace prayer with pin pricks is the inevitable consequence of the way in which devotion to the NHS has become a quasi-religion," Pepinster explained.
"Once pilgrims would have waited to receive blessings from deacons, priests and cathedral deans. Now they queue patiently for succor from nurses, doctors and NHS high-ups," she added.
Blackburn Cathedral opened its crypt as a vaccinations center Monday and has a six-month booking from the NHS that could possibly extend to a year.
The cathedral, located in the Muslim-dominated county of Lancashire, announced on its website that it has closed its doors for public worship.
But "thousands will receive coronavirus vaccine on-site in the coming months," it boasted.
The Very Rev. Peter Howell-Jones, dean of Blackburn, told BBC Radio 5 that a logistics company had readied "the whole space for the thousands of people who come each day."
"In many ways, the cathedral has also now become this great hospitality center. Hospitality and welcome are at the heart of Christianity," Howell-Jones remarked.
Blackburn Cathedral sparked controversy in 2018 after it permitted an imam to recite the Islamic adhan — a triumphalist declaration of Islamic supremacy over Jews and Christians.
Meanwhile, the Church of England's House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group issued a statement endorsing the use of vaccines that "have utilized cell lines from aborted fetal material" being offered in its cathedrals and explaining:
We concur with the Pontifical Academy for Life's conclusions that the morality of voluntary abortion and the morality of using aborted fetal material are not conjoined so that "we believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion."
Speaking to Church Militant, writer Dn. Nick Donnelly observed that "the Catholic Church is being quoted by the Church of England to give 'moral authority' to yet another moral compromise with the world."
"What more evidence do we need to know that something has gone badly wrong in the Catholic Church's defense of the sanctity of life?" Donnelly asked.
The outspoken deacon lamented:
Until COVID-19, the Catholic Church's absolute opposition to abortion was known throughout the world. But the pope's and bishops' dubious justification for using vaccines incorporating cell lines from babies murdered by abortion has changed that. From now, the Catholic Church will be seen as just another equivocating organization like the Church of England. Who will bother listening to the Church protesting the use of babies' body parts in research?
"We have grown increasingly concerned regarding the infection rates across the country, and we wish to support the stay-at-home message which is so critical to controlling the virus and protecting the NHS," the cathedral stated.
However, speaking in favor of turning the cathedral into a vaccination hub, the Very Rev. Adrian Dorber, dean of Lichfield, said: "We are delighted to be able to offer the place as a nice, airy, socially distanced space in which this can take place."
"I hope it's a symbol of how all the communities can come together to facilitate the rollout of this amazing vaccine," Dorber added.
Rochester Cathedral, England's second oldest cathedral, announced it would "be closed for private and public worship until further notice," but opened in December "as a rapid testing center for people without COVID symptoms who live in a high-risk area."
The cathedral — built by England's first Catholic king, St. Ethelbert, in 604 and consecrated by St. Augustine of Canterbury — was home to English cardinal, bishop and martyr St. John Fisher for 31 years before Henry VIII executed him in 1535.
Catholics expressed outrage in July 2019 after the Church of England installed a nine-hole golf course in the medieval nave of Rochester Cathedral, turning it into a "den of golfers."
"It is admirable that so many churches and cathedrals have suggested that they may be able to provide space for vaccination centers as part of the national response to COVID-19," a Church of England statement said.
"Where this is possible to do it will be a great act of service and witness," the House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group notification announced.