Catholics in New South Wales have been asked to sign a petition calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to grant places of worship equal treatment to other public spaces under eased COVID-19 restrictions. Source: Sydney Archdiocese.
Under the new rules to be introduced on June 1, up to 50 people will be allowed to gather at a club, restaurant or pub at the one time, but the rules have not been extended to churches where only a maximum of 10 people are currently allowed.
The petition asks the Premier why 50 people can dine in a restaurant, but only 10 people are allowed to attend Mass, even though churches are often much larger in size.
It also asks why people who attend a place of worship for a service or even private prayer are required to provide contact details, when this requirement is not placed upon those dining in cafes or attending shopping centres, or undertaking any other activity.
“Contrary to what has been said throughout this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practice of our faith,” states the petition.
It is a sentiment strongly backed by Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP who said he believed a “double standard was being applied to people of faith”.
“We aren’t asking for special treatment, we are asking for equal treatment, which is why we are requesting the Premier to have a change of heart and include churches in the June 1 changes to the public health order allowing 50 people to come together for prayer or attend Mass,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Currently the bus that stops outside my cathedral can have more people inside it than my cathedral can. It simply doesn’t make sense. People of faith have to already sign in to visit a church and provide contact details, which we are adhering to, but patrons to a café do not. Why is a place of worship being treated differently?”
Archbishop Fisher said he had written twice to the Premier, once jointly with all the Catholic Bishops of NSW about measures that could be taken to minimise risk while relaxing restrictions around churches, but his calls for action from the government have been ignored.
The petition can be signed at https://www.openourchurches.com.au.
Petition calls on NSW Premier to end double standard (Sydney Archdiocese)
Coronavirus: Churches seek same rules as pubs and cafes (The Australian)