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

Christmas Lights
This nativity scene at the home of Paul Biro, organizer of the Summerland Drive-By Light Up, was just one of many parts of his elaborate display. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
VIDEO: Summerland holiday lights on display

Drive-by light-up on Nov. 27 showed some of the many festive season decorations

Penticton RCMP arrested a 33-year-old man they are calling a prolific offender Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (Black Press file photo)
Police chase leads to arrest of Penticton ‘prolific offender’

Suspect with stolen bike worth $10,000 fled on foot, tracked by police dog

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Penticton artist Glenn Clark will have his work on display at The Bench Market beginning Dec. 1, 2020. (Glenn Clark Art)
Renowned local artist gets exhibition at Penticton cafe

Glenn Clark has won a handful of prestigious awards and painted 20 murals

The video was used for (KGH Foundation - YouTube)
Okanagan filmmaker, poet win at L.A. Film Awards

Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan wrote and filmmaker David Nault produced the commercial

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Join Rob Dinwoodie and bandmates for a Cowboy Christmas, Dec. 11 and 12 at Vernon and District Performing Arts Center. Seating is cabaret style on the stage for an intimate concert. (Contributed)
North Okanagan cowboys go virtual for Christmas

Cowboy Christmas streamed Dec. 11-25

Vernon is getting in the Christmas spirit with many homes decorating with lights and extras. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
Christmas lights tour mapped out by Vernon realtor

More than 20 of the community’s best lit houses make up annual tradition

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Salmon Arm RCMP say some patrons have been harassing local businesses over mask requirements. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Police urge respect after Salmon Arm businesses report being harassed over mask rules

Wearing of masks in businesses and public spaces is currently mandated by the province

Salmon Arm RCMP officers attended two public COVID-19 demonstrations held in Salmon Arm on Saturday, Nov. 28.  (File photo)
Organizer of Salmon Arm COVID-19 demonstration fined $2,000 by RCMP

Police said some participants weren’t aware of the public health order prohibiting gatherings

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: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Sunny the cat, who jumped out of the truck at the Revelstoke Landfill earlier this month, was quickly reunited with his owners. (Contributed)
Cat returns home with the help of two landfill workers

Sunny jumped out of the truck at the landfill in November

Most Read