WASHINGTON - A D.C. Catholic church is closed until further notice after a pastor contracts COVID-19, forcing staff and congregation members into quarantine.
The Holy Comforter Saint Cyprian Catholic Church is on East Capitol Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. D.C. Health said parishioners who took communion at certain times should self-quarantine for two weeks: Saturday, July 25 at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, July 26 at 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Monday, July 27 at morning mass.
The pastor who's sick, Monsignor Charles Pope, has criticized covid-19 restrictions, people not attending mass and "fear mongering" by media over the virus.
Pope told FOX 5 Sunday night that he started experiencing symptoms on Monday, got a rapid test, and the church was shut down immediately after the results came back positive.
"I'm actually feeling steadily better every day," he said.
Pope has been outspoken about his views that there is too much fear over the virus and people should not be afraid.
"There's more to life than not suffering, not getting sick or not dying," Pope said Sunday. "Somewhere we have to have courage to go out into a world that's filled with risk. And I'm concerned we've lost our nerve."
When asked if he was more fearful of the virus than he might have anticipated, he said yes and blamed "fear-mongering."
When asked if he still believes restrictions have gone too far, as he's previously stated, Pope said many have questioned restrictions, but he has followed all of D.C.'s coronavirus rules. He said he doesn't know how he contracted the virus and doesn't know of anyone else who may have gotten it from him.
Pope said he feels he's been misinterpreted in statements he made on a radio program where he said about half of people who've stopped coming to church are "lukewarm" Catholics.
He said he was not condemning those who stopped attending due to health risks and his point was the church should have been more proactive to reach those people.
"I am concerned that we may have lost permanently a large group of Catholics who became disengaged from the church and may never return even after this crisis is over," said Pope. "And we are going to have to work very hard to reengage them and draw them home."
Pope has also been critical of television news, writing "Watching the news only exacerbates the anxiety, as the media naturally focuses on the areas where things are not going well in our fight against the virus. It has now become politicized and commercialized, because fear is recognized as one of the best ways to control people, to attract viewers, and to sell products."
When asked what news he watches, Pope says he does not watch any television news.