Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith has addressed lingering questions on the issues of both religious exemptions and conscience rights in light of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a Sept. 24 letter to the faithful, Archbishop Smith writes that some people have asked their priests to be exempted from mandatory vaccination on the basis of conscientious objection. However, that request can’t be granted.

In his letter, Archbishop Smith noted the Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and Pope Francis himself have already provided the moral guidance that it is morally permissible to receive a vaccine approved for use in Canada against COVID-19.

“Endorsement by a priest of a parishioner’s request for exemption on the basis of religious belief would run counter to this direction given by the Bishops,” Archbishop Smith writes.

In the letter, Archbishop Smith goes on to address requests to be exempted from vaccination on the basis of reasons of conscience – integral to the Church’s teaching - as well as the commitment to the common good.

“I wish to remind everyone that if, for reasons of conscience, a request to be exempted from vaccination is granted by the relevant authorities, the moral obligation to act in charity towards others always remains. Those who are exempted thus have the responsibility to do their utmost to ensure through other measures that they protect both themselves and others from contracting the COVID-19 virus.

“We are individuals living in society. As social beings, our actions affect others and thus involve responsibilities towards them. Our concern must always be for the welfare of both others and ourselves.”

The Archdiocese is also providing information on questions of conscience and the common good. Any further questions or concerns can be addressed to your local pastor.