Archdiocese lobbies ACT government for bigger Masses
New South Wales will allow Masses for 50 people from next Monday and the ACT should do the same, the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has argued.
Vicar-General Fr Tony Percy has today written to ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman pointing out that, from tomorrow, funerals in the ACT can have 50 people but not Masses.
Masses in the ACT are still restricted to 10 people.
From tomorrow, that number will increase to 20 parishioners in line with Step 2.1 of the ACT Recovery Plan.
Step 2.2 takes effect on June 20 but still only allows 20 people for Mass, despite permitting 50 people at gyms and health clubs.
From mid-July a total of 100 parishioners will be allowed through church doors when Step 2.3 takes effect.
Advocating for the 160,000 Catholics across the Archdiocese, Fr Tony said churches were large buildings that could easily comply with physical distancing and hygiene rules.
In his letter, the Vicar-General acknowledged the “marvellous work” of Dr Coleman and the ACT Health Department in dealing with COVID 19 and said the community was deeply grateful.
“Would it be possible for Step 2.1 to permit places of worship and religious ceremonies to have a max of 50 people?” Fr Tony wrote.
“This is respectfully requested, given that our Churches are large public buildings that can easily comply with the 1 per 4sqm rule and satisfy hygiene requirements.
“This request seems consistent with the fact that in Step 2.1, 50 people are permitted for a funeral and in Step 2.2, up to 50 people will be allowed in other public places, including gyms, health clubs, fitness and wellness centres.
“This request would also provide consistency with NSW, which will permit 50 people for places of worship and religious services from Monday 1 June 2020.”
The Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn covers 89,000 square kilometres, Fr Tony pointed out, incorporating the ACT and large parts of country NSW, and comprises more than 160,000 Catholics.
The NSW government has announced a further easing of restrictions with up to 50 people permitted at funerals and religious services from Monday and up to 20 people at weddings.
This follows political pressure from Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and other religious leaders who argued faith services should be considered essential during the pandemic.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said churches must follow guidelines which are likely to ban choirs and group singing and minimize book sharing and collection plates.
“It is crucial that worshippers remember to follow health advice,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “This is particularly important for people with comorbidities aged over 65 and people aged over 70.”