A sign reads "closed section" at St.-Benoît-Abbé's church in Quebec City. CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

Indoor Masses on hold indefinitely in Quebec

  • January 5, 2022

Except for funeral ceremonies with up to 25 attendees, Quebec’s churches will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

The province has restricted any indoor public worship services or social gatherings — even for an entirely vaccinated congregation — as it contends with rising case counts of COVID-19. 

This edict from Premier François Legault’s government became active New Year’s Eve.

“We’re at the worst of the pandemic so far,” Legault said at a Dec. 30 press conference. “Cases are underevaluated due to (at home) rapid tests, and we risk surpassing hospital capacity in the coming weeks.”

Churches are not alone in being hit with harsher restrictions. Gyms, restaurants, retail stores, workplaces, gathering halls and entertainment venues have been levied either outright closure demands or stingier capacity allowances. The province has also decreed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

No projected end date has been publicized for the latest restrictions.

These new measures expand on what the province had already put in place in the days leading up to Christmas. On Dec. 20 the province suddenly mandated that all places of worship impose a vaccine passport system where only fully vaccinated worshippers could attend services.

Many Catholics didn’t take this lightly. Evelyn Campbell, the catechetical leader for Corpus Christi Parish, was a key planner of a 40-hour virtual vigil that culminated with a public prayer service for religious freedom on the steps of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral Dec. 22.

“We just felt that irrespective of vaccination status, everybody should be allowed to pray and to worship at the liturgies,” said Campbell. “Many of us volunteers in the parish were really upset with the government introducing this mandate, so our response is that we need to pray about this.”

On Dec. 23, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix chose to close indoor collective celebrations in the Quebec archdiocese until Jan. 10 as a “strong gesture of solidarity with vulnerable people as well as with the staff of the entire health network and all those who help fight the pandemic.” Just over a week later, the decision was taken out of Lacroix’s hands entirely.

Currently, outdoor Masses are still allowed in the province, something the Archdiocese of Montreal took advantage of for its Christmas services. Archbishop Christian Lépine added 10 outdoor Masses on Dec. 24 and 25 to ensure vaccine-free congregants would not be entirely cut off from the Christmas celebrations.

Though Ontario took a step back into a modified Stage 2 of its pandemic re-opening roadmap with harsher restrictions starting on Jan. 5 for at least three weeks, little has changed for worship services. While previously as many people as possible could enter the building as long as physical distancing protocol was followed, the new restrictions of 50-per-cent capacity are in line with the realities that came with physical distancing.

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