The pastor of a Capitol Hill Catholic church tested positive for the novel coronavirus the same day he suggested parishioners who did not attend in-person church services over fears of infection were “lukewarm” in their faith.

Monsignor Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Catholic Church, tested positive for the virus on July 27 after going to the hospital for a high fever, The Washington Post reported.

Washington, D.C.’s health department began contact tracing two days later among members of the congregation. The department called on anyone who took communion on the afternoon of July 25, the morning of July 27, or on July 26 to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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Nine days before his test, Pope had written an article criticizing shutdown measures in the National Catholic Register, writing, “There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying.” The morning of July 27, he said on the religious talk radio program “Morning Glory” that some parishioners avoiding in-person observance were “lukewarm” Catholics.

Pope said he fully complied with all city regulations and that he has worn a mask whenever speaking one-on-one to parishioners.

“Whenever I was told to wear a mask, I always did,” he said. “We are Christians. We believe that there’s a role for suffering. It’s not appropriate for a Christian to be afraid.”

Dawn Goldstein, a Capitol Hill resident who attends nearby St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, told the Post she found Pope’s rhetoric inappropriate.

“He has used his platform to mock and ridicule Catholics who are taking precautions,” she said. “It’s so un-pastoral, so unlike a priest.”

Goldstein told the Post she had personally interacted with Pope on June 6, before the city’s mask mandate took effect, as he led a procession of priests, nuns and laypeople during protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Goldstein, who was distributing water to demonstrators, said she offered Pope a mask but he turned her down.

Pope disagreed with Goldstein’s characterization of his positions on the pandemic. “When I say, ‘Do not be afraid,’ that is not to say, ‘Be reckless,’” he said. “There’s a middle ground between afraid and reckless, and that’s prudence.”