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

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed by Interior Health at Rutland Senior Secondary Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Case of COVID-19 confirmed at Rutland Senior Secondary

Interior Health lists possible exposure dates as Nov. 23-25, 27

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of Kelowna social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders nothing short of ‘complete depravity’

(City of West Kelowna)
Large West Kelowna housing development back on the table

Council considering rezoning to accommodate 184 housing units, project hopes for ~933 by completion

Kelowna videographer Noah van der Eerden details why he thinks Kelowna is the best city in his video. (Noah van der Eerden - YouTube)
Videographer shows off Kelowna’s beautiful sights in heartfelt video

Noah van der Eerden moved to Kelowna from Vancouver two years ago

Children wait using physical distancing after getting their pictures taken at picture day at St. Barnabas Catholic School during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Update: COVID-19 cases confirmed at more Kelowna schools

Interior Health announced a case has been confirmed at Chute Lake Elementary

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Courtesy of the World Health Organization
UBCO researchers interview caregivers for rural adults’ mental health concern

The researchers are looking for participants who live or have relatives in rural communities

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that's ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov | AFP)
WEB POLL: Will you take a vaccine for COVID-19?

Doses are expected to arrive in the new year

Travis Hirlaka, Vernon
PHOTOS: Sunrise paints Okanagan skies

Residents in the Okanagan captured stunning shots of a colourful start to Saturday

Staff and students at Vernon’s Fulton Secondary School were evacuated due to an electrical short that sent one person to hospital Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Vernon high school evacuated, one person injured by electrical short

Incident at Clarence Fulton Secondary forced brief evacuation Friday afternoon

Two Canadian petitions are asking to have elected officials removed from office. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: Petitions show loss of faith in democratic process

Online petitions from third-party sources have taken aim at elected officials in Canada

Chinook salmon spawning in the Fraser River near Tete Jeune Cache. ((Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)
North-Okanagan Shuswap MP petitions government to reform salmon management

Mel Arnold tables petition to allow more angler access to non-threatened Fraser River chinook salmon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Shuswap Cider Company has applied for a licence that would accommodate a cider manufacturing facility, a tasting room and patio/lounge area at Westgate Market in Salmon Arm. (File photo)
Cider manufacturing facilty, tasting room and patio proposed for Salmon Arm

Council asked to raise a virtual glass to a licence for a cidery and amenities in Westgate Mall

Most Read