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Maine Bishop frustrated by limits on church gatherings

Maine’s Catholic bishop is unhappy with Gov. Janet Mills’ capacity limits put on churches, saying they do not make sense compared to what other nearby states are doing.Mills recently expanded gathering limits to allow five people per 1,000 square feet of space, or 50 people, whichever is greater. Bishop Richard Deeley says that equates to a slight increase of capacity at fewer than 10 of 141 Catholic churches in Maine.”I think that not giving more latitude to people to be able to exercise their constitutional right to worship is harming them,” Deeley said.Churches in Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut are allowed to be half-full. Deeley said he would be happy if the governor allowed his churches to allow 25 percent capacity, but he says the governor’s office won’t engage in a discussion.According to governor spokesperson Lindsay Crete, the issue comes down to a difference of opinion.”The governor’s office has spoken multiple times with representatives of the Archdiocese, along with other faith communities, over the past several months. Their opinions were heard and taken into consideration; the Bishop simply disagrees with the result,” Crete said in a statement sent to WMTW News 8.Since the pandemic began, churches were limited to 50 people inside. The governor’s new order increases that limit to 75. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland has room for 600. Deeley says there’s enough space for more than what is currently allowed.”There may not be room for 150, but there’s certainly room for more than 75,” Deeley said.Parishioners are still able to attend virtual services, but some are not fond of watching on a computer screen.”I know a lot of people that do it and that’s good, but I prefer to come in person and receive communion,” said Christiane Godbout of Portland.In the meantime, online Masses will continue, while Deeley says he is praying for a “rapid and peaceful end to the pandemic.”

Maine’s Catholic bishop is unhappy with Gov. Janet Mills’ capacity limits put on churches, saying they do not make sense compared to what other nearby states are doing.

Mills recently expanded gathering limits to allow five people per 1,000 square feet of space, or 50 people, whichever is greater.

Bishop Richard Deeley says that equates to a slight increase of capacity at fewer than 10 of 141 Catholic churches in Maine.

“I think that not giving more latitude to people to be able to exercise their constitutional right to worship is harming them,” Deeley said.

Churches in Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut are allowed to be half-full. Deeley said he would be happy if the governor allowed his churches to allow 25 percent capacity, but he says the governor’s office won’t engage in a discussion.

According to governor spokesperson Lindsay Crete, the issue comes down to a difference of opinion.

“The governor’s office has spoken multiple times with representatives of the Archdiocese, along with other faith communities, over the past several months. Their opinions were heard and taken into consideration; the Bishop simply disagrees with the result,” Crete said in a statement sent to WMTW News 8.

Since the pandemic began, churches were limited to 50 people inside. The governor’s new order increases that limit to 75.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland has room for 600. Deeley says there’s enough space for more than what is currently allowed.

“There may not be room for 150, but there’s certainly room for more than 75,” Deeley said.

Parishioners are still able to attend virtual services, but some are not fond of watching on a computer screen.

“I know a lot of people that do it and that’s good, but I prefer to come in person and receive communion,” said Christiane Godbout of Portland.

In the meantime, online Masses will continue, while Deeley says he is praying for a “rapid and peaceful end to the pandemic.”


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