Catholics kneel to pray for churches to open outside Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral. Photo courtesy The B.C. Catholic

B.C. public Mass ban extended to Jan.8

By 
  • December 9, 2020

VANCOUVER -- Public health officials in B.C. have extended the existing bans on events including public Masses until Jan. 8, meaning no public in-person Christmas or New Year’s Masses this year.

Health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a press conference Dec. 7 that the holidays will have to be celebrated in “different and smaller ways” than British Columbians are used to and encouraged connecting “with family and friends in a safe and virtual way.”

Henry added that the “vast majority” of places of worship “are doing everything they can to protect their congregants” from the spread of COVID-19.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Christmas and other celebrations “will not be possible in the same way, but that does not mean we won’t be able to celebrate; we just have to create new and special memories and even perhaps build some new traditions.”

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller was not immediately available for comment Dec. 7. He had previously shared his hopes that gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed again by Christmas. “In a way, Christmas is going to be like the first Christmas. It will be, in a sense, more humble, poorer,” he said Nov. 21.

There have been no COVID-19 outbreaks tied to churches in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Several online petitions are circulating calling for churches to re-open for public worship. For three consecutive Sundays, a group of Catholics has also gathered in-person outside Holy Rosary Cathedral to pray for churches to open. An estimated 200 participants joined Dec. 6, some masked, and all told by organizers to keep distant from people outside their households.

While social events remain against public health orders, Henry said drive-thru and drive-up events are not, as long as people remain in their cars.

Miller released guidelines Dec. 4 for distributing Holy Communion in such cases. He said participation in a livestreamed Mass before receiving Communion is “the best preparation for the sacrament and very strongly encouraged.”

He also said drive-up Communion must follow all public health and archdiocesan guidelines.

For facilities that don’t lend themselves to giving Communion to people in their cars, Miller said arrangements can be made to have parishioners come into the church if they enter a few at a time, sign in for contact tracing purposes, sanitize their hands and after receiving Communion exit through a different door without remaining in the church.

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