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Archdiocese of Toronto calls on province to let more people go to places of worship in lockdown zones

Father Ed Curtis performs Holy Communion services at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica, in Toronto, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto has launched an initiative calling on the Ontario government to amend capacity restrictions for places of worship located in grey-lockdown zones of the provincial coronavirus response framework.

The “Open Ontario to Worship” campaign calls on residents to send an email to their local MPP, which will be shared with Premier Doug Ford and requests that the government allow all places of worship to open based on a percentage of pre-pandemic capacity.

“Places of worship, regardless of whether they seat 100 or 1,000 people, must remain at a hard cap of 10 people,” Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, wrote in his “call to action” letter, in reference to areas in grey-lockdown.

Read more: Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on March 7

“Next week, a funeral at St. Michael’s Cathedral (capacity 1,500) will be capped at 10 people, while around the corner dozens can enter the local liquor store and thousands will visit the Eaton Centre. This makes no sense.”

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In all levels of the provincial coronavirus response framework other than grey-lockdown, places of worship are limited to 30 per cent capacity indoors, and 100 people outdoors so long as physical distancing can be maintained.

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On Monday, Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region are set to see shutdown restrictions and a stay-at-home order lifted and will move into grey-lockdown. Toronto, Peel Region and Thunder Bay District will be the only areas in lockdown in the province.

Read more: Ontario reports nearly 1,300 new coronavirus cases, 15 more deaths

The move will see some restrictions in Toronto and Peel eased, including allowing non-essential in-person retail shopping at 25 per cent capacity. But some regulations, including a cap of 10 people at religious ceremonies with physical distancing, will remain in place.

Collins said it doesn’t appear that religious facilities are being “treated equitably.”

“Our strict WorshipSafe protocols in our churches have proven to be effective,” he said.

“It’s time to address the growing inequities facing our faith communities.”

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Collins said the campaign is an “interfaith initiative.”

He added that he would like people from all regions send an email to their local MPP, including those not in grey-lockdown but where places of worship still face “greatly limited capacity, to respectfully request that any restrictions for places of worship use a percentage of capacity as opposed to an arbitrary number.”

Global News reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto said there is “ongoing dialogue” with the government.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Toronto, Peel Region moving into grey lockdown level on Monday' Coronavirus: Toronto, Peel Region moving into grey lockdown level on Monday
Coronavirus: Toronto, Peel Region moving into grey lockdown level on Monday – Mar 5, 2021

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