The Quebec vaccine passport system has been in place since September 1, 2021.
QUEBEC CITY, Quebec — Quebec’s Catholic bishops, while registering their opposition to the province’s imposition of COVID-19 vaccination passports as a requirement to attend church services, said this week they accept the requirement for now and continued to ask the government to get it over with.
“[I]It seems reasonable to us in the current circumstances to accept certain compromises that contribute to the safety and health of all,” the Bishops wrote in a Feb. 3 statement.
“For the moment, we accept that vaccination passports are compulsory to access places of worship, even if this measure upsets us deeply. However, we remain in contact with government authorities to remind them that this requirement goes against our beliefs and to ensure that it will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Quebec vaccine passport system, in which an electronic file functions as a pass allowing vaccinated people to access certain places or activities, has been in place since September 1, 2021.
The bishops noted that “Dignitatis humanae”, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, declared that the human person has the right to religious freedom, according to which “no one can be compelled to act in a manner contrary to one’s own beliefs, whether in private or in public, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
The bishops qualified their statement by noting that religious freedom “may exceptionally be subject to temporary restrictions for the common good.”
As part of Quebec Premier François Legault’s staggered reopening plan, places of worship reopened on February 7. By February 21, places of worship will be allowed to operate in Quebec at 50% capacity with a maximum of 500 people, with the vaccine passport system.
The current numerical limit is 250 people and attendees of church services must remain seated and not move around, the guide says.
Most COVID restrictions will be lifted by March 14 under the current plan, except for the province’s mask mandate and its vaccine passport system.
The bishops said that in meetings of a statewide interfaith council, they had “insisted” that those attending Mass be exempted from the vaccination passport requirement, “aware that we are negative effects of its imposition on our communities”.
“We recognize that many worshipers believe this requirement constitutes intolerable discrimination that deprives unvaccinated people of their right to religious freedom. This exclusion seems to them incompatible with the very essence of a community of believers, called to be welcoming, compassionate and open to diversity,” the bishops wrote.
More than 85% of Quebecers received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the start of the year. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in Quebec have increased from 3,400 to 2,400 in the past three weeks, says Legault.
Legault announced a health tax on the unvaccinated in January. A curfew was lifted the same month.
Other Canadian provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, have recently announced plans to end their vaccination passport systems and mask mandates.