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No singing allowed and faces must be covered as places of worship reopen in Quebec

Congregants say they feel happy to be back in their places of worship, despite new rules in place for public health

Al-Salam mosque in downtown Montreal is one of the places of worship that has opened its doors after COVID-19 forced them closed months ago. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

As places of worship reopen across the province, Quebecers of all different faiths will have to get used to the same public health rules.

Christian Lépine, the Archbishop of Montreal, says he’s been preparing to open the doors of Montreal’s Catholic churches for weeks now.

Some of the new rules are familiar: they will have to wear a mask and wash their hands regularly. Other rules, however, are more unique: Lépine says there will no longer be paper materials in pews, and there will be no singing during the service. 

“If you sing, you project droplets,” said Lépine. 

Communion will still be celebrated during mass, but congregants must wear a mask and can only put the wafer in their mouths as they return to their pew.

Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal, said there have been no problems so far with social distancing in churches around the city. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

“I felt that more than we missed Jesus, Jesus missed us. I was very happy,” said Patricia Hip, one of 50 people who attended mass at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral on Monday.

She also misses members of the community who weren’t able to make it to mass.

‘We need it in our lives’

Plastic now covers the carpeted floor where the faithful pray at Al-Salam mosque in downtown Montreal.

Ali Danab, an imam at the mosque, says the decision to close down was a difficult one. 

“As a believer, it’s like taking the soul from our lives. But we have to do so, for our safety,” he said. 

For Muslims who pray five times a day, said Danab, a mosque is a place where people can meet, talk with one another and help each other.

Awais Humayun says it’ll be an adjustment to pray two metres apart, but he’s glad his mosque is open once again. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Only 50 people can pray in the mosque at any given time, and Friday prayers will be held several times to serve everyone who wants to come, while respecting physical-distancing guidelines, said Danab.

Awais Humayun, who lives 15 minutes away from the mosque, says he felt a void during the months when it was closed. Now that the mosque is open again, he says he’s happy to be back, despite the changes. 

“Before, we used to pray shoulder to shoulder,” said Humayun. “Now, we just have to be two metres apart.”

Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation in Côte Saint-Luc says it’s been a very difficult few months, and he’s been using online platforms, like Zoom, to connect with congregants.

Watch how places of worship are adjusting to new reality: It’s been a week since the province’s places of worship were allowed to re-open. They, too, have to follow physical distancing rules. That’s led to a very different experience for those wishing to practise their faith publicly. CBC’s Simon Nakonechny visited two services today. 1:59

The synagogue has been opening cautiously and gradually, Popuko says, because he doesn’t want to make any mistakes that could jeopardize public health.

“Many people are still weary of going out,” said Poupko. “We’re not encouraging people who are weary to return. We’re asking people to follow their own instincts.”

Those who do want to come back, he says, will have to reserve a time online, in order to make sure there is enough space.

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