Archbishop of Vancouver 'baffled' by decision to suspend in-person worship

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The Archbishop of Vancouver says he is "baffled" by the province's recent decision to suspend in-person worship while keeping restaurants and gyms open.

J. Michael Miller said in a Sunday morning homily that "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."

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie suspended all in-person faith-related gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Worshippers have been told not to attend services at their gurdwara, synagogue, church, mosque or temple.

Churches remain open for prayer, adoration and individual confession. Church basements can also be used for other purposes, like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which Miller said in his address that he is thankful for.

But he called it "puzzling" that even limited prayer services are suspended, when he said none of B.C.'s 78 parishes have been the source of a community outbreak.

"Certainly we must pray that the situation will soon change, so that we can return to Mass with a congregation, even if reduced in number," he said.

"We all want to protect the health of British Columbians, but that burden should not — must not — fall unjustifiably or unequally on communities of faith."

Health officials in B.C. confirmed another 516 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 10 more deaths.

Masks are now mandatory in indoor retail and public spaces. That includes malls, grocery stores, liquor stores, community centres, municipal buildings, libraries, common areas in hotels and restaurants and bars when not seated at a table.