Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. (Google Maps)

B.C. archbishop says there was ‘no evidence’ given for ban on in-person religious services

Ban applies to all gatherings until at least Dec. 7

The Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver has issued a statement taking issue with the way new COVID-19 restrictions have been applied to religious ceremonies.

The new rules, announced Thursday (Nov. 19), suspended religious in-person gatherings and worship services until Dec. 7, at which time restrictions will be reconsidered. The new rules followed multiple days of more than 700 new cases and three days of double-digit deaths last week. Religious groups are asked to use Zoom or other virtual methods for ceremonies, but contemplation and personal prayer is still allowed inside a house of worship. Funerals, weddings and baptisms are allowed as long as the facility has a COVID safety plan and no more than 10 people present.

In his Sunday (Nov. 22) statement, Archbishop J. Michael Miller said Vancouver Catholics have abided by all rules set forth so far.

“The faithful of the Archdiocese have been exemplary in respecting the health orders of the provincial government because they care for the well-being of their neighbour, especially the most vulnerable among us,” he wrote.

“The restrictions placed on banning congregations, even limited ones, from attending Holy Mass are, of course, a matter of grave concern to us both as Catholics and as citizens of British Columbia.”

ALSO READ: Top doctor urges Canadians to plan safe holidays as new COVID cases continue to rise

Miller goes on to note that there have been no outbreaks in the church’s 78 Vancouver locations.

“No evidence has been forthcoming to help us understand why worship in Catholic churches must be curtailed from its current status so as not to put a strain on our health-care system, a system that certainly needs to be protected for the common good,” Miller said. The ban on in-person worship services applies to all religious groups.

“From today’s order it seems that religious institutions are not being treated with the same consideration regarding the number present at religious gatherings compared to that at secular indoor gatherings,” he added.

“The reason why gathering for worship in limited numbers where all safety precautions are met is not allowed, while bars and restaurants and gyms can remain open with measures that are no more safe, is simply baffling.”

When speaking on Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she had consulted with faith leaders while praising many for their work throughout the pandemic, but noted there had been outbreaks limited to religious settings. One such outbreak was recorded at the evangelical Kelowna Calvary Chapel in September.

Along with religious gatherings, secular and community gatherings that were previously allowed with up to 50 people are also banned, including galas, silent auctions, holiday activities, musical and theatre performances.

Michael finished his statement with a hope that a further explanation for the temporary ban on religious gatherings would be forthcoming, noting that “to limit the religious freedom of believers to worship is a very serious matter, since such freedom is specifically protected in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

READ MORE: Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

READ MORE: 6 things you need to know about B.C.’s latest COVID-19 health orders

READ MORE: B.C. extends private gathering ban province-wide


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusReligion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Janice Perrino, Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation CEO, holds information brochures for the Light the Trees campaign, part of an effort to raise $5 million for the new intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Million-dollar donation has Light the Trees campaign off to a bright start in Nanaimo

Windsor Plywood Foundation supports Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation

Regional District of Nanaimo will be receiving $1.17 million from the B.C. government in COVID-19 safe restart grant money. (News Bulletin file)
Regional District of Nanaimo directors getting started on budgeting decisions

Proposed tax requisitions for 2021 range from 7.3-per cent increase to 2.2-per cent decrease

A sport utility vehicle and a Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools work van crashed on Bowen Road near the intersection with Caspers Way this afternoon. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Drivers taken to hospital after head-on crash on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

Crash happened near Caspers Way intersection Friday afternoon

École North Oyster. (Black Press file)
With more student drop-offs during pandemic, SD68 examines safety outside North Oyster school

Fewer school bus trips and more cars accentuating traffic concerns, say school district staff

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson takes her oaths of office virtually on Thursday. (B.C. Government YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson named B.C.’s mental health and addictions minister

Malcolmson succeeds Judy Darcy, who did not seek re-election

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Police in Nanaimo never know what they’ll encounter when called upon to check on the well-being of people. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo RCMP find ‘heart-breaking’ circumstances during wellness checks

Police offer sampling of outcomes from well-being checks over recent weeks

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Nanaimo ballerina Jillian Vanstone is giving a hometown performance at the Port Theatre on Dec. 12. (Photo courtesy Karolina Kuras)
National Ballet of Canada principal dancer returns for a hometown performance

Nanaimo’s Jillian Vanstone celebrates a favourite choreographer at the Port Theatre

Most Read