SEVERAL churches in West Belfast opened their doors on Tuesday morning following the Stormont Executive’s decision to facilitate re-opening for private prayer as part of its steps to ease lockdown restrictions. St Michael's and Corpus Christi followed suit on Wednesday. This story has been updated to include video from all three.)

Churches and places of worship had been closed to the public and for all sacraments these past nine weeks, amid health and safety concerns due to the Coronavirus.

St Peter’s Cathedral and St Teresa’s Church on the Glen Road were opened from 11am — to the relief of many parishioners. Speaking to the Andersonstown News parish priest of Corpus Christi Church, which reopens tomorrow (Wednesday), Fr Paddy McCafferty welcomed the development.

“We will be open for around three hours, everyday. It is immensely helpful now this development, it means that people can come to the church as they are used to doing, visit the Blessed Sacrament, light a candle, spend a wee bit of time in the quietness of prayer, this is very, very helpful and beneficial for people,” he said.

Fr Paddy stressed that social distancing measures will be in place inside the church. “There is a one-way system in place and every evening the church will be cleaned, all the surfaces. Most of the church has been cordoned off. Hand sanitiser will have to be used and will be available. Parishioners will be exiting through the side door. It’s very much a case of all-systems-go.”

A spokesperson for Down and Connor Diocese said that all visitors to churches must strictly observe the social distancing regulations and good hygiene practices which will be outlined at Church entrances.

“Anyone who is unwell or exhibits symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home. Those who are at increased risk from the virus, and/or have been advised to shield themselves, should also remain at home.”

The following churches have been opened for private prayer:

St Peter’s Cathedral, Monday to Saturday 11am-1pm. Sunday 2-4pm

St Teresa’s Church, everyday from noon-6pm

St Matthias’s, everyday from noon-6pm

Holy Spirit, everyday noon-6pm

St Michael’s the Archangel, Monday – to Friday 11am-4pm

Corpus Christi Church, 11am-2pm.