TORONTO -- Ontario has loosened the rules for weddings, funerals and religious services as of today, a move that is being welcome by faith leaders.

The tiered framework for COVID-19 restrictions had previously limited attendance at weddings, funerals and religious services to no more than 10 people in lockdown zones, like Toronto and Peel, but the Ford government announced over the weekend that it would begin allowing up to 15 per cent of approved indoor capacity. It also said that it would allow up to 50 people to attend services outdoors.

The changes took effect at midnight.

“We had been speaking with them obviously along with various other religious groups who were concerned about the limitation of only 10 people for these very large churches. Our cathedral fits 1,500 people and 10 people just doesn’t make sense,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, told CP24 on Monday afternoon. “I think they (the Ford government) may not have appreciated that and I can understand that. They are making many decisions for many places so they may just not have realized that.”

The Archdiocese of Toronto launched a petition earlier this month to call on the Ford government to implement capacity limits for religious services that reflect the pre-pandemic capacity of a given venue rather than a set number of people.

That petition, in turn, was signed by more than 12,000 people.

Collins said that between the reopening of religious venues in June and their closure amid a province wide lockdown in December, there were only 50 positive cases reported at churches within the Archdiocese of Toronto and no known cases in which people were determined to have contracted the virus at church.

He said that the new capacity limits will not result in any significant changes for parishioners as a number of protocols were already in place, including mandatory six-feet distancing and some other changes to the services themselves.

Collins, however, said that he is hopeful that capacity can be further increased as “more and more people get vaccinated.”

“For now we will follow very diligently all the regulations so that they help people,” he said.

Religious venues were initially ordered to close during the first wave of the pandemic last spring but have mostly been open since June.