It’s happening in Quebec: 

As the Quebec government tightens measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows only essential services, the Catholic dioceses of the province have started temporary layoffs affecting hundreds of Catholic employees and priests.

The Quebec government has ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses through April 13. Churches and other institutions of a religious or spiritual nature are not on the government’s list of essential services.

The Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe announced March 23 that it is laying off all staff at its diocesan center. It recommended parishes do the same.

“Unless there is a real need, I recommend to the parishes of the diocese to temporarily lay off, as of Friday, March 27, all personnel, including priests, so that they can benefit from employment insurance,” said Bishop Christian Rodembourg. He called the provisions “heartbreaking.”

“I do so, however, in the hope that they will help us get back on track as soon as possible,” he added.

Bishop Rodembourg left it to the parishes to evaluate their needs and financial capacities.

The dioceses of Rimouski, Gaspe and Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatiere have made similar moves.

However, some dioceses are opting for partial layoffs. For instance, the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke is keeping its communications director.

“We want to maintain the link with the citizens, to keep them informed,” explained communications director Eliane Thibault. “We want to keep this relationship with the population even if the churches are closed.”

Some parishes in the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke have chosen to lay off their staff, but this movement was not widespread immediately.

…The Archdiocese of Quebec City announced March 24 it was closing all nonessential services, resulting the layoff “of most of the staff,” approximately 70 people, Auxiliary Bishop Marc Pelchat confirmed.

“An important part of the annual diocesan budget comes from parish contributions, which are currently under pressure. We must set an example as an organization that serves the communities, and that also makes the sacrifices required by a new situation,” Bishop Pelchat wrote to employees.

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