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Quebec archbishop, parents denounce COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings in places of worship

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WATCH: Quebec archbishop, parents denounce COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings in places of worship

Religious leaders and communities are denouncing the province’s decision to set such a strict limit on gatherings in religious places but not on other venues.

“We’re not asking for something special but on the base of the actual rules,” said Montreal archbishop Christian Lépine. “We have all the safety measures we need in place. People can go to shopping centres to shop and buy things; church shouldn’t be any different — you could enter in the church without having gatherings.”

The province tightened public health directives for indoor public and private gatherings, saying a maximum of 50 people can now attend indoor religious services, and in regions classified as orange under the province’s alert system, including Montreal and Quebec City, that limit goes down to 25.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Churches across Quebec opening for first time since March

But Lépine said church is an essential service.

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“The aspect of spiritual needs … are very important for people and they have an impact on psychological needs, mental health, physical health,” says Lépine.

Families were attending the Saint-Leonard parish on Sunday for the confirmation of their children, but due to the number restrictions, some family members were left out.

“We did exclude over at least 20 people who were willing to come — we both have brothers and sisters and their grandparents most importantly,” parent Victor Colalillo said. “It’s a shame that the grandparents are not here to celebrate with us.”

READ MORE: Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica faces funding crunch as COVID-19 curbs tourism

Archbishop Lépine and churchgoers say they want to be classified like theatres and concert halls, which can host as many as 250 people, even in orange zones.

“No, it doesn’t make sense,” parishioner Marco Mollica said. “They should be able to accommodate more than 25 people. Just an example: we went apple picking yesterday and there was over 300 people at this apple orchard and there was limited social distancing.”