ACT police have warned priests they are breaking the law by celebrating their regular Mass, even with very reduced numbers, social distancing and masks. Source: Canberra Times.
According to one priest, officers came up to him after the service on Wednesday and told him the Mass did not conform to COVID regulations. The priest said a second church was also visited by officers on Sunday.
Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese vicar general Fr Tony Percy has written to the ACT Government, “expressing concern at police visitation to a number of churches in the archdiocese in recent days”.
Under ACT rules, a religious service can be conducted if it is “time-critical”, so funerals can be held with 20 people, and weddings can be held with 10 people. But not regular Mass.
ACT Policing said it was a matter for the ACT Government. The ACT Government wrote to Fr Percy saying that Mass was not “time critical”.
Fr Percy replied, explaining that gathering for Mass was “always time-critical because of spiritual and psychological human needs”.
He and other priests in Canberra have been celebrating Mass with very small groups of people and keeping all the rules about masks, social distancing and hand-sanitiser. They believed by limiting numbers to 10 they were within the rules.
Father Percy argues Mass is an essential event, particularly for those living alone. Because of its psychological help, Father Percy believed Mass should be viewed by the regulators as a “time-critical religious ceremony” and therefore permitted.
He also expressed concern that restrictions on churches, which are often big enough to hold hundreds of people, seem to be far tighter than they are on other smaller places like shops.
ACT priests, police, government at odds over COVID-19 religious exemptions (By Steve Evans, Canberra Times)