Boston, Mass., Sep 27, 2021 / 16:23 pm (CNA).
Clergy in the Archdiocese of Toronto who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination must show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test to their pastor “prior to or immediately upon entering parish offices, or presiding at religious services,” according to new rules that Thomas Cardinal Collins outlined last week.
“Beginning on October 8, 2021, we will require that all clergy (bishops, priests, deacons) be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide regular proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test result in order to perform their duties,” the Archdiocese of Toronto’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy says.
The same requirement applies to volunteers, lectors, choir members, ushers, and “individuals performing similar functions” as well as employees at parishes, the chancery, and “satellite offices.” The policy accepts a “rapid test” administered at a local pharmacy. However, the unvaccinated clergy, staff, or volunteer member “is responsible for the cost (about $40/test),” the policy states.
No proof of vaccination or recent negative test will be required to attend Mass or other religious services, the policy states.
The policy was circulated on Sept. 24. In a letter accompanying the new rules, Cardinal Collins urged “those that have not been fully vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.”
The cardinal said that requirements from the provincial government as well as organizational policies in many institutions will significantly impede the ability of unvaccinated clergy to serve the faithful.
“This will restrict your ministry in schools, hospitals, long-term care homes and other settings requiring full vaccination,” he wrote. “We know that these visits and your ongoing pastoral care in these settings are important aspects of your ministry.”
Cardinal Collins noted that many clergy are living in a community, including some who “may be elderly or with more significant health challenges.” He also said that staff or volunteers in rectory or office may also be at greater risk depending on their circumstances.
“In short, we have a responsibility to ensure a safe environment for staff and volunteers. Vaccination remains the best defence against infection for oneself or others,” Cardinal Collins wrote. “Should you choose not to be vaccinated, regular weekly rapid tests (as outlined in the policy) will be required.”
The new policy states that those who violate the rules “may be subject to discipline (which includes being placed on an unpaid leave of absence), up to and including termination of employment for just cause.”
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