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SARS causes Canada to curtail religious services

The emergence of SARS in a close-knit prayer group has resulted in restrictions on Easter services for thousands of Toronto's Catholics.

Fearful that members of a prayer group known as the BLD Covenant Community may have exposed the faithful to severe acute respiratory syndrome, officials with the Archdiocese of Toronto took action on Tuesday.

The archdiocese ordered all its parishes across the city of Toronto to suspend delivering communion from the cup, kissing the crucifix on Good Friday and sharing the "salutation of peace" by shaking hands. The move will affect thousands of Roman Catholics.

Restrictions on communal traditions within other religious gatherings were also being considered to stem the spread of the highly contagious disease, said Colin D'Cunha, Ontario's medical officer of health.

Catholic leaders also urged any faithful displaying SARS symptoms such as fever, coughing or sneezing to stay home, even though that may mean missing out on Easter observances that begin today.

"Some people may feel a stress or tension between what they would regard is their religious duty and their public health duty," Bishop John Boissonneau told a news conference. "Let me tell you: their public health duty is their religious duty. They're responsible before their God and within their community to safeguard the common good."

"They honour God by following the directives for the health of the community."

Globe and Mail

Archdiocese of Toronto | Holy Week Letter to the Pastors Regarding SARS
SARS control efforts working, officials insist despite new cluster of cases (CP)
SARS chills Canada's Easter services as virus spreads (Reuters)
Overseas Filipino Workers asked to make sacrifice against SARS (Inquirer)
SARS may be here to stay: WHO (CNN)
Catholic churches taking SARS precautions (Guelph Mercury)

17 Apr 2003