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EDMONTON, Alberta (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics in Alberta are frustrated with Church leaders for refusing to stand against some of the most restrictive church lockdown measures in Canada.
A number of Catholics — asking for anonymity — informed Church Militant that Edmonton's Abp. Richard Smith, like other Canadian bishops, is siding with the government in imposing harsh COVID restrictions. They say such restrictions in some cases are even exceeding Alberta's own already stringent guidelines and are especially painful during the Easter Triduum — the Church's biggest celebration of the year.
A parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Spruce Grove outside Edmonton lamented governmental overreach into Church worship.
Speaking of the Easter celebration, the Catholic reflected, "The most joyful feast will be somber this year."
"The Father's house does not belong to Caesar, nor does he have jurisdiction in the Father's house," he continued. "Where are the clergy standing up to Caesar?"
A nine-page list of government restrictions in Alberta mandates the number of worshippers "is limited to 15% of fire code occupancy." It further directs worshippers to wear masks at all times and to remain at least two meters apart. It strongly discourages singing and forbids the kissing of holy objects. It also says prayer books must be disinfected after each use.
"The ambiance, the beauty and the reverence of Easter will not be present as in years past," the Albertan decried, echoing the frustration of many Catholics in his province. "COVID restrictions keep growing and now include mandatory masks, no Communion on the tongue, restricted access to the sacraments and ceasing the use of holy water fonts. Even the choirs have been silenced."
"We will not celebrate or welcome RCIA candidates into the Catholic Church this year," added another parishioner, who was concerned for future numbers of Catholics.
Some vented their frustration by posting signs because they say phone calls to the chancery office or to individual clergy have come to naught.
Signs recently posted outside the archdiocese administrative offices tried to prick the conscience of the hierarchy. One sign asked, "Where is your zeal for souls?" Another sign implored the clergy to recognize the danger of the lockdown measures: "Do you not see the commie bastards are trying to shut you down forever?"
These signs were removed by the archdiocese shortly after they were put up — with no response.
In contrast to the laissez faire attitude of the Catholic clergy, Albertan Catholics pointed to a Protestant pastor willing to go to jail over the freedom to worship — and the First Commandment. Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church, outside of Edmonton, was arrested in February for holding full capacity in-person Sunday worship despite the province's guidelines.
During the arraignment, Coates defended his actions: "I'm simply here in obedience to Jesus Christ, and it's my obedience to Christ that has put me at odds with the law."
The pastor spent 35 days inside Edmonton's maximum-security remand facility, alongside murderers and rapists, before being released in March.
Albertan Catholics said they see no analogue for Coates among their shepherds. "Archbishop Smith is very much a company man, who just goes with the flow," a local Catholic observed.
The people have been lied to and the bishops have simply gone along with it without some critical thinking. This virus has a 99.96% survival rate, and now it's the push for the vaccine. What's next? Are we not going to be allowed to attend Mass unless we have the vaccine?
The archdiocese of Edmonton's website presents the image of a healthy Church, advertising online "Sunday Mass with Archbishop Richard Smith." But the spiritually oppressive COVID restrictions frustrating the faithful are hidden among its colorful pages and couched in the administrative language of Smith's video messages.
But faithful are not buying it. "Let my people go," said a Protestant minister supportive of Coates.
Echoing Moses' cry to Pharaoh, an Albertan Catholic pleaded, "This is our cry to the bishops: 'Let my people go.'"