Some religious groups cancel in-person events for Easter, Passover

Many Catholic and Jewish events planned for Easter and Passover this weekend may be cancelled or moved online due to the major snowstorm in southern Manitoba.

“Everyone will just have to see what their local conditions are and not take chances,” said Daniel Bahuaud, a spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Boniface.

Good Friday and Easter services will still take place, Bahuaud said, but whether parishioners can attend in-person or not will depend on where they are in the province.

“If the roads are good, and if you are in a position to attend, then please do so joyfully, but don’t take chances,” he said.

Typically on Good Friday, some parishes hold a Way of the Cross procession, Bahuaud said, where parishioners carry a cross and recite prayers as they walk through the streets surrounding the church.

Depending on what the weather is like on Friday, some of those events may be moved indoors.

The timing of the storm is unfortunate, Bahuaud said — Holy Week started last Sunday and runs until Saturday.

But after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, most parishes are well-versed in offering online services, which will continue to be an option.

“As Catholics this is a very, very important time of our year,” he said.

“I’m sure that there is a sense of disappointment. There was a sense of disappointment and longing to attend mass all the way through the lockdowns that we all experienced during COVID.”

The Archdiocese of St. Boniface’s website has links to various parishes that broadcast in both English and French.

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg website says it has cancelled the in-person event for the Public Way of the Cross that was supposed to take place at St. Nicholas Tavelich Parish on Main Street. The Good Friday event will now be streamed online instead.

Synagogues also close

Shaarey Zedek Synagogue announced on its website earlier this week that it not have in-person services through to Friday evening, but executive director Ran Ukashi said it may reopen Friday if the weather lets up.

With in-person gathering restrictions changing frequently over the course of the pandemic, people are used to being nimble and reactive and joining services virtually, Ukashi said.

“It’s no substitute for having the in-person Seder or celebration … but I think people have become much more flexible. Certainly we have, so we always have a plan B for everything,” he said.

Rabbi Kliel Rose at Congregation Etz Chayim said they too cancelled events due to the storm.

“We were all very excited about having an in-person service, certainly on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the Passover, which are considered to be major parts of the whole Passover experience, and given the latest weather pattern, we ended up deciding the other day that we were going to move everything online,” Rose said.

“For me, personally, that was a hard blow, but I understand and we want to make sure that people are safe.”

Rabbi Kliel Rose says cancelling in-person Passover services is disappointing, but the congregation wanted to ensure people stay safe during the storm. (Rabbi Kliel Rose/supplied)

The congregation was expecting about 200 people for the Seder feast on Saturday evening, and it’s still unclear if that will go ahead because food preparations were supposed to happen earlier this week.

Many families, like Rose’s own, may still gather at their homes if people can make it, he said.

“If there’s one thing about Winnipeggers, we are very resilient and we know how to deal with the snow,” he said.

Passover runs until next weekend, and in-person events will resume at the synagogues if weather permits.

Ramadan services

The storm has also affected some activities as part of Ramadan, which runs until May 1.

The Manitoba Islamic Association said it’s seen fewer people attending prayers, and it cancelled Taraweeh prayers at its St. Vital location on Wednesday and Thursday.

The association’s drive-thru iftar service, which provides warm meals to people in need, will not be offered on Thursday due to worsening weather conditions, a spokesperson told CBC News in an email.

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