The dome of the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Haarlem, the Netherlands. / Frank de ruyter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL).
Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).
Catholic bishops in the Netherlands have decided to cancel Christmas Midnight Masses once again this year as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Dutch bishops announced on Dec. 1 that no Catholic Masses or other parish functions will be allowed to take place after 5 p.m., with public venues required to close between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. under new government measures lasting until at least Dec. 19.
The Dutch bishops’ conference website explained that the decision, also taken last year, was made to prevent large crowds gathering for evening Masses on Christmas Eve. It added that it is difficult to maintain good ventilation with multiple Masses in one evening.
Other Church gatherings, such as catechesis meetings and parish council sessions, can only take place virtually after 5 p.m. Evening Masses on weekdays and Saturdays will be brought forward to finish at 5 p.m.
Dutch officials announced that researchers had found that there had been cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Netherlands before the variant was detected in South Africa, according to NPR.
More than 84% of the population in the Netherlands is fully vaccinated and a total of 587 people with COVID-19 are currently in hospital intensive care units, according to the Dutch government dashboard.
The new restrictions come as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands is struggling financially.
The Dutch newspaper Trouw reported on Nov. 30 that the 640 Catholic parishes in the Netherlands lost 15 million euros (around $17 million) last year due to the pandemic and the aging population.
It said that four out of five Catholic parishes in the Netherlands are in financial difficulty and that some parishes are selling church buildings as a result.
There are 3.7 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but only 4% regularly attend Mass, according to Dutch News.