coronavirus

DC Priest Who Criticized Coronavirus Closures Contracts Virus

Monsignor Charles Pope was vocal about opposing restrictions related to the potentially deadly virus and even downplayed the risks

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Anyone who recently attended services at one Catholic church in D.C. is being advised to self-quarantine after the pastor, who criticized coronavirus-related restrictions, tested positive for the virus. 

Monsignor Charles Pope reported testing positive, Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Roman Catholic Church and D.C. Health Department said. The church is closed for two weeks and anyone who was there on July 25, 26 or 27 is told to take precautions. 

Pope, 59, was out of the hospital and recovering at the church’s rectory as of Monday. He was vocal about opposing restrictions related to the virus and even downplayed the risks. He called people who opted not to attend church because of fear of the virus lukewarm Catholics. 

“There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying,” he recently wrote. 

Parishioners should “resolve to never again allow a governor or mayor to dictate whether, when or how we may give the sacraments,” he said. 

In a video message to parishioners recorded after he was released from the hospital, Pope reiterated his previous concerns. 

“I’m just saddened at how fear has so gripped the entire world,” he said. 

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Theologian Dawn Eden Goldstein, who described herself as a faithful Catholic, criticized Pope’s response to the virus. 

“He’s been using rhetoric to paint the pandemic restrictions as government impositions upon the church,” she said. 

Longtime parishioner Charlie Sullivan defended Pope and said he is concerned about everyone. 

“This idea that he is reckless is really ridiculous,” Sullivan said. 

For now, Holy Comforter is closed and Pope and at least one other person in the rectory is in quarantine, awaiting test results. Pope apologized to his congregation. 

“I deeply regret any inconvenience that i have caused you. I am getting better,” he said. 

The health department said multiple people have tested positive. The church and archdiocese did not respond to inquiries. 

The D.C. Department of Health says anyone who took communion at the church during the services listed below have been been exposed to the virus and should quarantine for 14 days from the last date of potential exposure.

The service dates and times include:

  • Saturday, July 25 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 26 at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., and 7 p.m.
  • Monday, July 27 at morning mass

Those who participated in communion at these services should take the following precautions:

  • Separate yourself from other people (self-quarantine) as much as possible at your home for 14 days from the last time you took communion at one of these events.
  • Avoid leaving the house except for essential medical care.
  • Do not leave home to go to work or school.
  • Do not take public transportation (e.g., Metro buses or trains) and do not use taxis or rideshare services.
  • Prohibit visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home.

The church will be professionally deep cleaned and sanitized, according to the church website.

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