December 20, 2021
An unusual Christmas!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It’s a funny title to use as we approach the great feast of Christmas, considering that it has always been an unusual and extraordinary feast on its own! This year, however, the Christmas celebrations in Quebec are shaping up to be very different because of the new restrictions recently imposed by the Quebec government.
The announcement of new measures reducing the number of people allowed in churches as of Monday, December 20, and the exclusion of the unvaccinated from the usual celebrations, are creating even more division and resentment among the members of those parish communities. Not to mention the fact that the government is also imposing on them the task of acting as a police officer at the entrance to their churches, in order to check whether the faithful have their vaccination passport or not! And please note that the Bishops of Quebec were not even consulted before the publication of this announcement which seems to me to be totally unfair to a part of our faithful, and which has no scientific basis whatsoever, since even the vaccinated can be contaminated and contaminate others, as scientists and the media have revealed again recently. If this is the case, how can we justify imposing a vaccine passport, as if by magic the vaccinated could avoid any contamination?
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, our churches have scrupulously followed the multiple standards of the health authorities and have helped to prevent any spread of the virus in our congregations. Now, it is as if the government suddenly had no confidence in the measures it has imposed on places of worship. We are treated more harshly than supermarkets and many other businesses, yet at one point we were recognised as “essential” to the welfare of the public, particularly to the faithful.
I seriously wonder whether the line between what the State can and cannot dictate to the various religious communities has been crossed with this obligation to present vaccination passports at the entrance to our churches. The Code of Canon Law is clear: no member of the faithful should be deprived of the Sacraments. But our governments are making a mockery of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church. Dare to challenge your government representatives to change this latest law which in fact oversteps their role and duty in our society. Their role is earthly, and we recognise that it is God Himself who has entrusted them with this responsibility, but ours is heavenly, for Christ Himself entrusts us with the spiritual stewardship of His Kingdom. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, our Master and Saviour has taught us.
Archbishop Lépine of Montreal recently published a very eloquent letter. He asks us to fight the virus instead of fighting each other with judgment and resentment towards those who do not think as we do, between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. Otherwise, the virus will win over us and hurt us not only physically and psychologically, but will divide us spiritually to the point of hatred towards our neighbour, instead of the unconditional love that Christ wants to give us by taking on our mortal condition on this great Christmas Day.
May we rediscover our childlike hearts as we contemplate the Child in the manger. See how he opens wide his little arms and hands, as if to say to each of us: “Will you let me into your heart at Christmas?”
Sincerely yours in Christ our Redeemer,
+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R.
Bishop of Pembroke