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Abbey opens its doors and welcomes two Archbishops

Monday, 15th June 2020

Abbey opens its doors and welcomes two Archbishops

Two of the country’s most senior church leaders visited Westminster Abbey today (Monday 15th June) when the Great West Door opened for the first time in three months since churches were closed for the Covid-19 lockdown.

Following Government guidance, the Abbey now has re-opened for private prayer. Two of the first visitors were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby; and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

They were welcomed to the Abbey by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and taken to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor behind the High Altar where they all prayed in silence.

The Dean said after the visit:

In Westminster, we rejoice as we open the doors of the Abbey with the words ’Peace to this house’. We have talked so much about isolation in recent months. For many that has been a heavy burden. Today, the Abbey opens for private prayer; public worship will follow later. This is a good moment to be reminded, by the two Archbishops, that there is no isolation in prayer. Prayer brings us into the presence of God, into the communion of saints and into the company of the whole church. Today we are in the best of company.

Though the Abbey has been closed to the public since the end of March, clergy and residents have continued to worship in the precincts. The Abbey has also produced a podcast of readings, prayers and a short sermon on Sundays and festivals. HRH The Prince of Wales recorded a reading for the Easter Day podcast.

Westminster Abbey was founded by King Edward the Confessor but though his church was finally consecrated on Holy Innocents' Day, 28th December 1065, he was too ill to attend and died a week later. He was officially canonized as Saint and Confessor by Pope Alexander III in February 1161. The shrine, at which the Archbishops prayed today, which contains his mortal remains was completed in 1269 when Henry III rebuilt his ancestor’s church. It is now a place of pilgrimage particularly during Edwardtide in October each year.

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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