Victorian bishops say the Andrews Government’s decision to allow churches to open for private prayer for up to 10 people is a “gentle first step” as the state cautiously begins to lift COVID-19 restrictions. Source: Melbourne Archdiocese.
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird CSsR, Sandhurst Bishop and Sale Diocese diocesan administrator delegate Fr Rev Peter Slater yesterday issued a joint pastoral letter on the COVID-19 restrictions.
The bishops said they were delighted that churches could reopen “in certain circumstances”.
“This opportunity for small gatherings and for some quiet moments of prayer in the sacramental presence of Our Lord is a gentle first step in the right direction, and rightly a moment of rejoicing for God’s people,” the letter states.
“We are pleased to work constructively with our communities to make appropriate adjustments. Strict restrictions still govern our actions due to the risks of COVID-19 and we are all being asked to show patience and fortitude.”
The bishops said each diocese would community directly with parishes about how various ministries, including sacraments, would be conducted in the first stage of the easing of social restrictions.
“We wish to be fully compliant with the directives that apply across Victoria, so that we ensure the protection of elderly and vulnerable people, and work together for the common good of our communities,” the letter states.
“The conditions under which a church can be open include a collection of contact details (for the purposes of contact-tracing if it becomes necessary), strict monitoring of numbers, ongoing hygiene requirements, publicising the scheduled times for private worship, and public worship limited to ten people at a time.”
The bishops asked for “patience and understanding” while arrangements for liturgies and church access to meet social distancing and hygiene guidelines are made.
“After a difficult time for all of us, including many new pressures on families and great challenges for health care and emergency workers, we share in the disappointment that social restrictions are likely to continue for some time.”
“Nevertheless, we act with one accord in doing what is most prudent and loving for the sake of those most susceptible to the virus. We rejoice that Christ is with us and will walk with us as we begin the long journey out of the current stage of restrictions.”
COVID-19 Pastoral letter - May 13 2020 (Bishops of Victoria)