PEI

Bishop wants more Islanders to be allowed in churches

The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Charlottetown is urging the province to increase the number of people allowed in church under COVID-19 public health orders.

Bishop Richard Grecco questions importance P.E.I. government places on faith

Bishop Richard Grecco is advocating to allow for a maximum 30 per cent capacity for P.E.I. churches. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Charlottetown is urging the province to increase the number of people allowed in church under COVID-19 public health orders.

Churches are currently allowed no more than 15 people at a time. That number is expected to increase to 50 in Phase 4 of the province's ease-back plan, expected to begin in late June or early July.

Bishop Richard Grecco says 50 may be adequate for smaller churches, but not for larger churches such as St. Mary's in Souris, St. Simon and St. Jude in Tignish, St. Paul's in Summerside and all the churches in Charlottetown, including St. Dunstan's.

In a letter to parishioners, Grecco said he has lobbied the province and Chief Public Health Office to allow for a maximum 30 per cent capacity for Sunday worship. 

Could still meet health standards

He said he is confident churches could still meet public health standards, including physical distancing, but so far he has been unable to convince the government.

It divides a community, forcing the doors of the church to be closed to many more than are able to enter.— Bishop Richard Grecco

"My experience in trying to present a realistic approach to Sunday worship, during the new normal, leads me to question just how important a person's faith is seen by the government officials," he wrote in the letter to parishioners.

"Is it as important as economic opportunity, i.e. reopening restaurants? Is it as important as reopening sporting activities and barber shops? Is it as important as opening our borders to seasonal dwellers?"

Not 'just or reasonable'

Grecco said having faith and the ability to actively celebrate has "significant implications for emotional and psychological well-being."

"Mandating that faith communities gather in relatively small numbers is divisive," he said. "It divides a community, forcing the doors of the church to be closed to many more than are able to enter. This does not strike me as just or reasonable."

CBC reached out to the P.E.I. government for comment, but has not yet received a response.

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