The Bishop of Antigonish has cancelled both Sunday and Weekday Mass throughout the entire Diocese of Antigonish for the foreseeable future. Pictured is St. Ninian Cathedral on Monday.

ANTIGONISH: As provincial COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease in Nova Scotia, and the limit on gatherings increasing; it has prompted places of worship to make their preparations in re-opening their doors for service.

“We’ve now had more than two weeks with no new cases of COVID-19, and Nova Scotians are getting back to normal activities while maintaining precautions,” Premier Stephen McNeil said. “Continuing the core measures of physical distancing and hand hygiene is how we will keep our case numbers low, especially as we increase gathering limits and welcome Atlantic Canadian visitors to Nova Scotia.”

Effective July 3, a recognized business or organization can now plan an event outdoors with a maximum of 250 people attending with physical distancing rules in place; for an indoor event, the limit is 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 200.

The expanded gathering limits apply to social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and other cultural events, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts.

“This news comes as we prepare to re-open our churches for the July 4-5 weekend,” Bishop of Antigonish Wayne Kirkpatrick said. “As Bishop, I support this directive that allows for more people to attend our churches. Our main concern is to continue to allow for two meters or six feet physical distancing at all times while also following our diocesan protocols that require cleaning and disinfecting.”

Kirkpatrick advised parishes are working individually to implement protocols for reopening; and Catholics are asked to check with their parish for times and procedures for attending mass in-person.

“As a diocese, we must continue to work together and assume the responsibility for re-opening our churches for the public celebration of mass and the sacraments,” he said. “We continue to ask for your full co-operation and patience as we do our very best to welcome back the faithful.”

Kirkpatrick added that precautions will be taken when and where Masses, funerals, weddings, and other events take place.

“In the midst of this pandemic, we must absolutely be mindful of the safety of our neighbours. The risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread is still with us,” he said. “While celebrations will be adapted to minimize this risk, it is hoped that our worship experience remains life-giving as we break open the word of God and are fed by the body of Christ.”