Church expresses understanding for decision to suspend religious services

One of the lockdown measures announced on Friday evening was the suspension of religious services for 6 weeks starting from Monday. Although individual prayer and funeral services (with no more than 15 people in attendance) will still be allowed, from Monday believers will no longer be able to attend Mass, Friday Prayers or any other religious service until 14 December.  

The Roman Catholic Church in Belgium has said that although it is saddened by the decision to suspended religious services for six weeks from Monday, it has every understanding for the measure.

Although it is still early, the Church remains hopeful for the Christmas period and for the eventuality of being able to hold symbolic services for a small group of participants, Tommy Scholtès of the Confederation of Bishops told VRT News.

In the Brussels-Capital Region religious services are already suspended so churchgoers from the capital that want to attend Mass on All Saints Day will have to do so in a church in either Flanders or Wallonia. In these two regions religious services are still allowed under the conditions of a strict protocol to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus until the measures announced on Friday come into force on Monday.

As well as funerals with a maximum of 15 people present from Monday, like during the first lockdown, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples will be allowed to film or record services and livestream or publish them on the internet. When doing this only the people that are necessary to conduct the service and ensure that it can be broadcast are allowed to present.

"We could have expected this decision, but it is regretable. We will not be able to stand by believers during this All Saints’ period nor can we stand by the families of people that have passed on”, Mr Scholtès said. Nevertheless, he understands that it was taken in the spirit of solidarity.

Churches will remain open for prayer and reflexion. However, checks will be maintained on numbers and that the rules on social distancing, hand hygiene and masks are upheld.

Mr Scholtès went on to say that although it is still early, he was hopeful for the Christmas period and that even if churches weren’t allowed to be fully operational by then services could be held for small limited groups of parishioners. He also pointed out that up until now not a single corona-related incident has happened in or around a church. 

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