After meeting with religious leaders, Quebec eases rules for houses of worship ahead of schedule
Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1859, will receive the largest sum of money -- half a million dollars-- to repair their bell tower. (Photo courtesy of Christ Church Cathedral)
MONTREAL -- The Quebec government has eased the rules for attending religious services in places of worship after a meeting Friday with representatives from various religious groups.
A provincial spokesperson confirmed to CTV News that the government will permit up to 10 people to attend services in person, something that has been banned since Jan. 8.
The ban was supposed to stay in place until Feb. 8, when the current regime involving a nightly curfew is set to end, but authorities had a change of heart.
"To be sensitive to their needs, [Quebec public health] proposed a 'limited' relief," with 10 people allowed, said the spokesperson, "in order to allow the faithful to continue the practice of their worship." With only 10 people, she wrote, "social distancing is easily respected."
The health minister agreed it was safe and signed a decree to that effect.
There are some other rules involved, including that singing will not be permitted. Here's the full list of rules:
- The leaders of the different religious communities must provide a rigorous example and encourage the members of the community to respect all health rules, such as physical distancing, hand-washing whenever leaving or entering, and wearing masks;
- Singing "cannot be allowed" since it's been showed to be a transmission risk;
- There's a mandatory attendance register for each place of worship to facilitate contact-tracers' work in case of an outbreak;
- Places of worship may not be used as shelters. "The accommodation centres provided for this purpose are secure places in terms of health, thus limiting the risk of the virus spreading," the spokesperson wrote.
- However, in the event that a person needs to speak with a representative of the religion to find support or comfort, doing so will be permitted inside the place of worship, outside of the usual ritual events.
The health department wrote that it is "sensitive to the preservation of freedom of worship, as well as the psychological and moral well-being of practicing people," but that the rules are necessary.
"We have no other choice but to impose the recent measures, both to relieve our critically strained health-care system and to increase our chances of breaking the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic," its statement said.
Attendance at funerals in Quebec continues to be allowed for a maximum of 25 people.
--With files from CTV's Max Harrold