New Zealand’s churches to open – but Masses on hold

Jacinda Ardern announced the Alert Level 2 restrictions yesterday (Facebook/Jacinda Ardern)

Catholic churches in New Zealand will open their doors from tomorrow for private prayer, but public Mass is not possible under the country’s new COVID-19 restrictions, despite hopes of a 100-person limit. Source: NZ Catholic.

This is the message sent by the country’s six Catholic bishops in a letter to parishioners, priests and parish leadership yesterday.

The new Alert Level 2 rules announced by the Government restrict religious gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, compared with the limit of 100 stated in the Government’s first Level 2 announcement last Thursday. Masses and other religious services would have been possible with the 100 limit.

All celebrations of Mass were suspended on March 20 and churches closed five days later as New Zealand was locked down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NZ bishops met yesterday via video conference and concluded that the limit of 10 people was too restrictive to allow even a limited resumption of weekday Mass, and certainly not any Sunday services.

“Like yourselves, we too are disappointed that we are not yet allowed to assemble in our churches in groups larger than 10 people,” the bishops’ letter says.

The letter notes that the Government will reconsider the limit of 10 people at religious services in two weeks. It adds that the Catholic bishops have joined with the Anglican Church in asking the Government to look again with urgency at increasing that number.

The bishops say the limit of 10 will allow churches to reopen from Thursday for individuals to visit for such activities as private prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All official health and safety requirements must be met for this.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday remained firm on keeping the number of people gathering under 10.

“You’ve heard me clearly outline them. This is only intended, we hope, to be a very, very, very short period that we are asking New Zealanders to unfortunately stay with us in what is a very difficult thing to do but the intention is, it will get us there faster when people can come together again,” she said yesterday.

FULL STORY

Catholic churches to reopen doors, but public Mass not possible yet (NZ Catholic)

PM firm on limits to gatherings (NZ Catholic

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