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

White Rock and Surrey RCMP – along with police forces across the province – have launched their holiday CounterAttack campaigns. (Contributed graphic)
White Rock, Surrey RCMP CounterAttack campaigns underway

Enforcement ramps up to remove impaired drivers from cities’ roadways

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judge finds Surrey RCMP breached two robbery suspects’ Charter rights

This was in connection with the robbery of the Ritecare Pharmacy in Surrey on Oct. 10, 2017

Representatives from the Delta Firefighters’ Charitable Society and local retailers present cheques for $5,000 to Priscilla Belonio from WINGS - Azure Place and Wayne Connorton from the South Delta Starfish Pack program, proceeds from the society’s “We’re in this Together” t-shirt campaign. (Dave Mason/contributed photo)
Delta firefighters t-shirt campaign raises over $11,000

Funds donated to Azure Place transition house, South Delta Starfish Pack program

Art rendering of Surrey’s Legion Veterans Village. (Submitted photo)
Surrey’s Legion Veteran Village to get 91 affordable housing units, B.C. government says

Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby made the announcement Wednesday

This year’s White Rock RCMP children’s clothing drive was the best yet, organizers say. (Contributed photo)
White Rock RCMP children’s clothing drive ‘best ever’

Month-long annual event wrapped up Dec. 1

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

Most Read