BELGIUM, December 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Belgian Catholics have been banned from attending Mass over Christmas, as the government-mandated prohibition of public worship has been extended until mid-January.
Belgium’s government announced the return to a national lockdown at the end of October, with the restrictions commencing on November 2. As part of the measures imposed, public worship was banned along with so-called non-essential shops.
UPDATE (5/21/2020) -
The Catholic bishops of Minnesota along with state’s Lutheran leaders have informed their governor that they will defy his continued lockdown order for houses of worship and will begin public religious services in time for Pentecost.
The order allows malls, shops, and other retailers to open their doors at fifty percent capacity, and allows businesses—from pet-grooming services to medical cannabis operations—to resume in-person operations...but explicitly leaves in place bans on in-person worship services for more than ten people.
The bold move was announced in separate letters sent simultaneously to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison from Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; from the presidents of the two Lutheran Church Minnesota districts; and from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the attorney group working on behalf of the reopening churches.
The religious leaders chose to act in defiance of the governor after he revealed his plan last week to reopen commerce in the state while keeping in place the limit for church services to ten people or less. Weeks of dialogue with the governor aimed at achieving equal treatment for houses of worship had reportedly gone nowhere.
And, although there are more than 85 archdioceses in North America, this is a good start.
Archbishop Hebda is to be commended for his courage and action in the face of discrimination by the state government.
While the "Mall of America" and casinos were allowed to reopen by the state at 50% capacity, churches were held to just 10 people per service.
And, thus, the Archbishop rightly judged the policy to discriminate against houses of worship.
Please READ THE FULL STORY by clicking on this link.
And if you haven't already, please SIGN this petition, which ask ALL the bishops of the Church to be courageous in restoring the sacraments to their flocks.
UPDATE (4/15/2020) -
In the first instance of reinstating the sacraments to the faithful in the U.S., the bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico has lifted a diocesan ban on public Masses, stating in a letter to his priests that “depriving the faithful of the nourishment offered through the Eucharist” cannot “become the ‘status quo’ for the foreseeable future.”
Bishop Peter Baldacchino advised his priests in the April 15 letter obtained by the Catholic News Agency that they can resume offering the sacraments as long as they abide by state-order health directives.
Bishop Baldacchino stated: "While it is true that we need to take every reasonable precaution to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, it is equally true that we offer the greatest ‘essential service’ to our people."
Let us congratulate Bishop Baldacchino for this courageous step! And, let us also encourage his brother bishops to follow his example.
Thank you for continuing to SIGN this urgent and crucial petition.
Please SIGN this petition, asking our bishops to work tirelessly to find creative and safe ways to restore, to us, their flock, the sacraments through which our Blessed Lord's sanctifying graces flow.
We read in the Holy Bible: "As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend My sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark ... the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (but the sleek and the strong I will destroy) shepherding them rightly." Ezekiel 34
During the first years of his reign, one of Pope Francis' most oft-repeated words was "accompaniment."
In Evangelium Gaudii, the word was used nine times, in Amoris Laetitia, five times. In many cases, the word was used in a challenging tone and in the general context of ambiguity that has come to define the Francis pontificate. Almost always, the word was meant to challenge the traditions of the Catholic Church.
But the tradition of Holy Mother Church is one of radical accompaniment, like that of a mother who would never allow herself to be separated from her child.
Now, more than ever, immersed as we are in a world threatened by the spiritual plague of secularism and the physical plague of the Chinese coronavirus, we need our shepherds to protect and feed their flock.
Please SIGN this petition, encouraging our bishops to be fearless and creative in their administration of the sacraments.
One need not be a medical doctor or a doctor of theology to know that if outdoor physical recreation and grocery shopping is essential and can be accomplished safely during this pandemic, so, too, can the exercise of religious services.
There is a battle raging all around us in which the secular world is seeking to eliminate all signs of Christ's presence among us.
The current pandemic, like all times of crisis, can be an opportunity to be the light of the world. But make no mistake about it, the enemy of God will use a time of crisis as well. He will use it to separate men from each other and from God.
SIGN this petition to implore the bishops to use all available safe and creative means to restore the sacraments to the faithful.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
'WATCH: Sick woman in hospital begs priests to courageously minister to sick, dying': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/watch-sick-woman-in-hospital-begs-priests-to-courageously-minister-to-sick-dying
'UK Catholic bishops suggest priests shouldn’t attend to dying faithful due to coronavirus': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/uk-catholic-bishops-suggest-priests-shouldnt-attend-to-dying-faithful-due-to-coronavirus
'Expert says it could be 18 months before church services resume: Live COVID-19 updates': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/police-state-grows-expert-warns-america-it-could-be-18-months-before-church-services-resume
'WATCH: Priest in Italy bravely processes with Eucharist to bless coronavirus-stricken country': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/watch-priest-in-italy-bravely-processes-with-eucharist-to-bless-coronavirus-stricken-country
'Spanish police shut down Palm Sunday Mass on church rooftop': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/spanish-police-shut-down-palm-sunday-mass-on-church-rooftop
'Police fine priest and quarantine him for carrying crucifix through the streets': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/police-fine-priest-and-quarantine-him-for-carrying-crucifix-through-the-streets
**Photo: Fr. Tomaso Jozef Jochemczyk processes with the Blessed Sacrament in Italy, March 20, 2020. Taken by: Sister Marie
The measures were originally due to expire in mid-December, and at the time, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Belgium released a statement in which they encouraged people to “make the most of this opportunity, obviously taking into account the health standards in force.”
Churches remained open for private prayer, the bishops pointed out, while Masses were live-streamed online.
Belgium’s lockdown has now been extended, with the cessation of public worship to continue until January 15. Under the new decrees, “non-essential shops” may reopen under “strict hygiene rules,” as also may “museums and swimming pools.”
In their statement responding to the extension of the prohibition of worship, the Belgian bishops wrote to “express their solidarity with the Government’s measures to counter the pandemic, avoid as many victims as possible and relieve the pressure on our health system.”
The press release continued: “The Bishops, like many believers, however, feel this lockdown of public religious celebrations in churches, as a limitation on the experience of their faith.”
A wish to “resume dialogue” was expressed by the bishops in order to “consult on the resumption of public religious celebrations” with the government.
The bishops also added that “parish officials” should “allow” people to “a visit to the crib” at Christmas, and to keep churches open for private prayer during the lockdown.
The Belgian minister of the interior, Annelies Verlinden, has previously warned that police would “ensure compliance with health measures at Christmas,” knocking on doors to assess if families are breaking COVID-19 restrictions. While she stopped short of saying police would enter houses, she confirmed that police will “monitor compliance with the measures.” “Enforcement is very important.”
The government’s move to further extend public worship is not without precedent, since the bishops themselves voluntarily closed the churches in March. Their statement at the time read: “Due to the expansion of the Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic, the bishops of Belgium decide today to suspend all public liturgical celebrations in our country.” They later moved to ban baptisms.
Meanwhile, a group of Belgian Catholics are petitioning the bishops and the papal nuncio for the resumption of public worship. Under the name “Committee of Concerned Catholics,” the group is asking that worship be allowed under the conditions existing prior to the second lockdown.
Philip Gray, a canon lawyer, president of St. Joseph’s Foundation, and director of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), previously spoke to LifeSite regarding the canonical legality of bishops prohibiting worship.
Under canon law, baptized Catholics “have a right to receive the sacraments if they ask for it at an appropriate time, and are properly disposed, and it’s the minister of the sacrament who makes that determination,” Gray told LifeSiteNews.
His words were echoed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who sternly rebuked bishops who had closed their churches to the faithful. “Bishops who not only did not care but directly prohibited their faithful access to the sacraments, especially to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Penance, behaved themselves as fake shepherds, who seek their own advantage,” Schneider said.
In an open letter published in May, Catholic clergy led by former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Joseph Zen, and Janis Pujats reminded politicians around the world that “the state has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the church.”
“This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments,” the signatories stated.