Churches across Montreal opened their doors to crowds of masked worshippers on Sunday despite the recent rise in COVID-19 variant cases.
The ease in COVID-19 restrictions came into effect Friday on the heels of both Easter and Passover celebrations — holidays where many attend church or synagogue for religious ceremonies.
Crowds attended mass at Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral on Sunday morning, sitting in designated pews marked off to ensure physical distancing.
“Physical health is very important. We understand the measures but at the same time psychological health is important, we cannot deny that,” said Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine.
Lépine told Global News he understands it’s crucial that people do not lower their guard while attending mass, adding that churches ask that those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms not attend any religious ceremonies.
“Spiritual health for many people is very important, so when you help someone whether it’s spiritual, physiological, or social — it also helps the physical,” Lépine said.
The Archbishop said online services will continue to be available for those who wish to worship from home.
This comes as Quebec’s professional physicians order, Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ), asked the government to reevaluate its decision to ease measures as COVID-19 variant cases continue to rise.
“The CMQ is asking the government to reconsider easing restrictions and take into account expert opinions as well as various ‘alarm bells’ that have been sounded in recent days,” the CMQ wrote on Twitter.
Premier François Legault however said on Friday that he was not considering reversing his decision to reopen gyms or to allow places of worship to welcome up to 250 people, even as he acknowledged that the province appeared to be at the beginning of a third wave.
The province reported 917 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, after breaking the 1,000 mark on Saturday for the first time since mid-February.
–with files from Elizabeth Zogalis, Global News