MONTREAL -- Under loosened COVID-19 restrictions, worshippers at Sunday morning mass in Montreal said they had a little more to be thankful for this weekend.

On Friday, new regulations came into force allowing places of worship to accept groups of 250 people at a time, while maintaining other health protocols.

“We can always stay home on Sunday and pray, but coming to church, it’s a different experience,” one person told CTV News Sunday. “It’s like the house where we worship together. It makes a difference.”

Physical distancing of two metres is still mandatory, and face masks are required at all times.

The loosened restrictions do not apply to weddings and funerals. Places of worship in orange and red alert zones must still limit the number of people to 25 for those types of gatherings, while in yellow alert zones the maximum is 50 people. 

“There’s no moment of gathering before the mass or after the mass,” said Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine. “They come in, they pray for an hour and then they leave.”

Some places have opted to keep gatherings to a minimum. The Union United Church hasn’t had in person services in more than a year.

They’ve held virtual services online, which will continue in order to allow a larger number of people to take part.

“We would maybe accommodate 65 people in our building if we opened it,” said church director Carol Reddick. “If we did gather, we [wouldn’t be able to] sing and it’s not the same.”

She says that there are lots of seniors in the congregation, and in-person ceremonies present too big of a risk.

“Our zoom service has been going really well, people have been enjoying them,” she said. “We’ve had nothing but great feedback from everyone.”

“Until this pandemic is over, I don’t think we’re planning on opening too soon.”

-- With reporting from CTV News Reporter Joe Lofaro