Many places of worship across Ontario are reopening for the first time in months as some restrictions are lifted from the COVID-19 lockdown.
At the Muslim Association of Canada mosque in downtown Toronto, questions to visitors about travel history and mandatory pre-booking were just some of the new safety measures being taken as it opened its doors on Friday.
Mahmoud Horani, who spoke with Global News after he finished prayers, said it was important for him to return to the mosque in person as soon as he could.
“Whether you are going to a church or a mosque — if you are worshipping God — and suddenly you are not able to perform your prayers, you feel there is something missing,” he said.
Also on his way out, Farasat Malik said, “The Friday prayer, you cannot pray at home because there is a khutbah which is only given at the mosque.”
The mosque asks congregants to bring a mask and their own prayer mat. Hand sanitizer is available throughout.
Places of worship were forced to close in March as part of government efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. This week, the province announced services could resume beginning Friday with building capacity limited to 30 per cent.
Over in the Kensington Market neighbourhood, the Anshei Minsk synagogue is taking similar precautions with a focus on distancing and handwashing.
Just in time for the sabbath, Rabbi Shmuel Spero said it gives him hope.
“Remember Noah in the ark? The great flood,” he said. “It’s that feeling. It’s like, now we’re coming out.”
The Catholic Church is taking a more gradual approach as it prepares to fully reopen. At a Friday news conference, Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto, said churches will open to private prayer on Sunday, with mass beginning as soon as next weekend as individual priests deem it appropriate.
“We are trying to balance two very important realities,” Collins said. “First of all, our need to come together and the reception of the sacraments, but also to be attentive to health and safety while doing this.”