The leaders of Christian religions in Northern Ireland have expressed concern that churches are to close there for two weeks from November 27.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church has described the suspension of public worship as a cause of "significant regret and concern".

In a statement, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce said the Presbyterian Church continued to make representations regarding public worship to the Northern Ireland Executive in Belfast and to the Irish Government in Dublin. 

"We have been reminding legislators of the importance of balancing our essential liberty to worship, with the need for protection of the community and people's livelihoods, from the devastating effects of this serious pandemic, and will continue to do so", he said.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin has sought "urgent clarification" whether churches may open for individual visits and private prayer.  

"I cannot understand how a person may still go to an off-licence to buy alcohol but might not be permitted to visit and sit in quiet solitary prayer in a large church.  The right to do this is particularly important for Catholics", he said. 

Archbishop Martin pointed out that the restrictions coincide with the beginning of the holy season of Advent. 

He has urged the Executive to accept that for many people a 'meaningful Christmas' is about more than shopping, eating and drinking and that spiritual preparation is essential.