Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins

Christmas Mass conundrum

  • December 17, 2020

Catholics across Canada will mull whether they should attend Christmas week Masses in person or if they should just stay home and watch a virtual service.

For many, the choice has been taken out of their hands. Current government pandemic restrictions vary nationwide depending upon the severity of COVID-19 cases in an area. Provinces like British Columbia have completely shut down access to public worship, while in the Toronto archdiocese, restrictions vary depending upon the locale of the parish.

The City of Toronto, Peel and York Region parishes have been completely shut down to public services, as capacity limits of 10 have essentially removed in-person services from consideration. Other areas of the archdiocese have less stringent capacity restrictions in place, as does most of Ontario.

Dr. Christopher Mody said each person has to really ask themselves how important celebrating in person means to them, while being aware of the risks.

“The people that are at the highest risk must seriously ask themselves how important is it for them to go to a place of worship to practise their religion where there is a risk of acquiring the virus,” said Mody, who heads the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. “They should balance that against the consequences that could come from being infected.”

Mody said while different organizations use different age cutoffs to assess risk, generally “you are more at risk the older you are.”

People with comorbidities such as high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, people on immunosuppressive drugs should also examine the issue, as should anyone with a chronic lung or heart condition, or someone with kidney and liver disease.

“You as a person must evaluate if you are OK with that (risk) when considering if you want to go worship in person,” he said.

Accepting the suspension of public services is a difficult proposition for many considering no outbreak of COVID-19 has been traced to a church. Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins expressed the sentiments in a letter Dec. 11.

“It is increasingly frustrating for all of us to see certain businesses open while others remain closed and that some, including places of worship, appear to be severely restricted with little evidence to suggest they are a cause of transmission,” write Collins. “Earlier this week, I communicated these concerns directly to Premier (Doug) Ford.”

 But he goes on to say Catholics must “balance this frustration” with the fact COVID-19 remains a concern.

“Our reverence for the sanctity of every life compels each one of us to follow the restrictions out of love for our neighbour, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to help us return to full ministry as soon as possible.”

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