The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged crematoriums and local authorities not to treat coronavirus victims ‘like cattle’ and give them a dignified burial.
Mr Welby – who normally presides over a congregation of 1,500 people at Canterbury Cathedral on Easter morning – delivered his Easter service on his iPad at his London flat after the UK’s coronavirus death toll hit 9,875 with 917 fatalities yesterday.
The Archbishop said: ‘I say to crematoria and local authorities, don’t just dispose of bodies like we did in the foot-and-mouth episode with cattle.
‘Human beings must be said goodbye to with dignity even when it has to be swift and with very few people there.’
His address this morning was followed by Pope Francis who delivered his traditional Easter Sunday mass via live stream inside a nearly-deserted St Peter’s Basilica.
The 83-year-old pontiff broke with centuries of tradition and delivered his service to empty pews with a live feed broadcasting it to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
The Pope called global solidarity in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout, urging the relaxation of international sanctions, debt relief for poor nations and ceasefires in all conflicts.
He also warned the European Union that it risked collapse if it did not agree on how to help the region recover.
The pope’s Easter ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (to the city and the world) message was by far his most pressing and political since his election in 2013.
Saying the message of this year’s ‘Easter of solitude’ should be a ‘contagion of hope,’ he heaped praise on doctors, nurses and others risking their lives to save others and hailed those working to keep essential services running.
‘This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic,’ he said in the message, almost entirely dedicated to the pandemic’s effects on personal and international relations.
‘Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time. We want to ban these words forever!’ he said.
Francis expressed sympathy for those not able to bid farewell to their loved ones because of restrictions, for Catholics who have not been able to receive the sacraments and for all those worried about an uncertain future.
‘In these weeks, the lives of millions of people have suddenly changed,’ he said.
The pope said now was the time for politicians and governments to avoid ‘self-centredness’ and take decisive, concerted action to help each others’ populations live through the crisis and eventually resume normal life.
‘May international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,’ Francis said.
He also called for debt reductions or forgiveness for the poorest nations, without naming any countries.
The Archbishop set up a makeshift altar on his dining table and was joined ‘virtually’ by bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkins and a 10-year-old parishioner named Theo from the diocese of Canterbury.
He opened his service by saying: ‘Welcome to the kitchen of our home on Easter Day.
‘At this very difficult time in the life of the nation and of the world, our prayers today are especially with those who are suffering, with those who care for them, and for all who mourn.’
During his service he reminded his virtual congregation that ‘we are not alone’ during the crisis and offered prayers to Boris Johnson and all those affected by Covid-19.
‘Who does not feel the shock of the last few weeks?’ he asked.
‘So many have suffered from the virus, been in hospital or mourn someone who is gone.
‘We were all probably shocked as the Prime Minister went into intensive care and we wish him, and all those who are ill, well and we pray for them and their families.
‘So many people right across the country are anxious about employment, anxious about food, isolated from loved ones and feel that the future looks dark.
‘People right across the globe feel the same uncertainty, fear, despair and isolation. We are not alone.’
Speaking to the BBC after the service, Mr Welby said delivering the service from home had been ‘very strange’ and ’caused us to do a lot of tidying up’.
In his central message of a return to a ‘common life’, he said: ‘We’ve gone through so much and we’re seeing such common spirit and an attitude to the common good coming through by the vast majority of people – we mustn’t lose that.
‘We need to look at what the implications for that are in the way we live together as a nation and around the world.’
When asked if the CoE had gone too far with its restrictions on services the Archbishop said: ‘I’m unhappy with it – I would love to be at Canterbury Cathedral… it would be much better.
‘But the reality is, we are here to set an example. It’s not about us.’
Churches across Britain have been ordered to close their doors throughout the religious festival with even clergymen urged not to film services there.
While the coronavirus crisis is unprecedented, it is not the first time churches have closed.
In 1208, Pope Innocent III fell out with King John over who should be the next Archbishop.
When King John refused to put a Parisian scholar in the role, Innocent placed the country under ‘interdict’ for six years shutting all churches and stopping services.
The only exceptions were baptisms – which took place in private – and ‘sacrament for the dying’, what we would now call funerals.
Many across the Church of England have become enraged by the ban on clergymen as they go further than the government advice.
The government had made provisions for such activities, so people belonging to churches up and down the country were still able to attend virtual services.
Those defying the rules set out by Mr Welby claimed they were being threatened with disciplinary measures.
One vicar said ‘it was time to revolt’ and another claimed they had ‘been going to church since lockdown’.
The Queen yesterday called for ‘light and life’ to overcome despair amid the coronavirus crisis as she declared that Easter is ‘not cancelled’ in a special Bank Holiday message.
Her Majesty has delivered her first Easter audio address, which had the resolute message: ‘As dark as death can be – particularly for those suffering with grief – light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.’
The 93-year-old monarch’s pre-recorded speech offered support to those marking Easter privately and the wider country, and she said: ‘But Easter isn’t cancelled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.’
It ended on a positive note: ‘May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.’
Marking another break with tradition, the Pope celebrated the Holy Saturday Vigil for Easter behind closed doors at St Peter’s Basilica as Italy’s coronavirus death toll rose by to 619 to 19,468.
Francis led the Easter vigil Mass in the huge Vatican church without the rank-and-file as part of Covid-19 containment measures.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jemma