Catholic bishop in Iceland appeals for lifting of 10-person Mass limit

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Bishop David Tencer takes part in a press conference at the Vatican on Oct. 17, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 5, 2021 / 08:35 am (CNA).- Iceland’s only Catholic bishop has called on the government to lift the country’s 10-person limit on Mass attendance, arguing that it is an “unfair discrepancy” within the current coronavirus measures.

Bishop David Tencer of Reykjavik, the country’s sole Catholic diocese, issued a statement on Jan. 4 calling for the COVID-19 restrictions to be changed “where justice does not seem to be observed.”

“Our churches are not small. If it is possible to hold a funeral or even a concert with 50 people, how is it that only 10 people can attend Mass?” he said in the statement sent to CNA.

“How do I explain to our parishioners that many restaurants can accommodate more customers? How to explain that in Landakotskirkja there can only be 10 people but, for example, there can be more than 10 in a sauna?”

Landakotskirkja, also known as the Basilica of Christ the King, is the Catholic cathedral in Reykjavik. It has a seating capacity of 200 people.

Fr. Patrick Breen, the vicar general of Reykjavik diocese, told CNA Jan. 5: “The church is quite big enough so that even 50 people in the church could still observe social distancing.”

Police contacted the Diocese of Reykjavik on Jan. 3 to report that a Sunday Mass offered in Polish at the cathedral had exceeded the 10-person limit.

Breen said that the police did not interrupt the Mass as some local news outlets had reported, but they had indicated that the 10-person limitation would be enforced.

In response, Bishop Tencer announced the suspension of all Sunday Masses in the Diocese of Reykjavik until the 10-person limitation is lifted. He also asked all priests to abide by the government restrictions for weekday Masses.

“I ask all those responsible for these regulations to change these rules where justice does not seem to be observed. … I pray for all but especially for those who make and apply these rules to consider this matter wisely and correct this unfair discrepancy,” Tencer said.

Iceland’s current coronavirus measures, which have been in place since November, are scheduled to expire on Jan. 12.

“We’re hoping that the bishop’s letter yesterday will help to change it for the better next week,” Breen said.

There are 111 cases of COVID-19 in Iceland as of Jan. 5, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The country has a population of just over 350,000 people.

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