This time the Government has allowed the churches to remain open. However, some have decided to close their doors to safeguard their people.
In catholic churches, from parish to parish, a church can be closed or open. It’s always up to the priest. In Anabela Santos’ case, her church is open but without public masses. “In my case my parish decided to keep the church open, but masses are being celebrated in private”, says the parochial employee.
“The priest is celebrating masses in private, he celebrates and leaves, nobody is present, except me - I am there to support him”, says Anabela Santos who has worked there for almost a decade.
Although the government did not impose the closing of churches and religious celebrations, a Portuguese episcopal conference decided on 21 January that the public celebrations of masses must be suspended in the mainland in order to reduce the risk and avoid contagion.
As a result, masses were once again broadcast online. With great faith and sadness for not being able to participate in person, people are participating and watching on Facebook which Anabela has said has been a success. “Videos have good images and there are many people watching, more than a hundred often, which is great in my opinion for small parishes”, she told The Portugal News.
Although the masses are being conducted behind closed doors, in the case of Anabela Santos, the church is still open for those who just want to pray. They just have to follow all the security measures such as wearing a mask, keeping a social distance and disinfecting their hands.
“I know it is hard for people because even though they watch it on Facebook or television, it is always different from being there in person and receiving the Eucharist, but they have accepted this and respect this sacrifice, with sadness, but there is no other solution, what else can we do?”, wondered Anabela Santos.
The impacts are already being felt in the lives of children, without catechesis (childrens instruction) for almost one year (despite some moments of catechesis between September and November), children have had much less contact with the Catholic Church. “I hope that if this goes back to normal, the children will come back but there has already been a level of detachment, especially for the little ones”.
On the other hand, the Anglican Church is still open and is celebrating the sacrament. A priest of the Anglican Church told The Portugal News: “My personal view as a priest, I believe that in these difficult times people need to go to their church more than ever. People need to be together in order to support each other, human contact is very important”. However the sacrament is also broadcast on Facebook to allow people who are completely isolated to follow the celebration.
If people comply with all the measures, it can be as “safe as to go to do the shopping”. The priest adds: “We take all the measures and a few more, we are really, really careful; a lot of hand washing, social distance, and the wine is served in individual cups (not touched by anyone else). Also now we have more space between the pews than before. I believe it’s really important, meetings over the internet or zoom are just not the same thing”.
However the priest is clear when says he’s not criticizing others. “Each priest makes the decision that’s right for their people”, he concluded.