Churches should be for all, not just the vaccinated
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has emphasised that vaccination must not be a barrier to communion with Christ Jesus.
His comments come as the NSW Government announced that churches in Sydney would begin to reopen once 70 percent of the adult population in the state has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Archbishop Fisher said he has been in discussions with the NSW Government and NSW Health, joining with other religious leaders in insisting that worship is an essential service, not mere recreation for many people.
“We explained that all our faiths are inclined to allow all comers to worship, that many pastors and faithful would be uneasy with restricting worship to the fully vaccinated and that doing so could prove very divisive”, he said.
“Race, gender, ethnicity, age, education, wealth or health status (including vaccination) must not be points of division within the Christian community or barriers to communion with Jesus”.
Archbishop Fisher said he was committed to ensuring a safe return to worship for everyone.
“We are working with a leading infectious diseases and risk management specialist to devise a plan that would allow for safe reopening of churches and safe return to worship for all. Some easing of restrictions on both outside and indoor Masses is on the near horizon. Greater numbers will also be allowed at weddings and funerals. And other sacraments including Baptism and Confirmation and devotions should also be possible”, he added.
Monica Doumit, Director, Public Affairs and Engagement with the Archdiocese of Sydney, said that churches have been open to people from millennia without distinction “and that’s the way we want it to continue”.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve demonstrated that we can open in a COVID-safe manner and we believe we have earned the trust of government and of health officials,” Ms Doumit said.
“What we would like to see is that as we progress towards reopening, that government and health officials will work with us to find a way that we can reopen to everybody because faith and worship is for everybody.
THanks so much for this positive message. It is so heartening to know that our Church leaders are advocating for their people in these fractious times. Unity and community is essential to our beliefs and worship. God bless you Archbishop Fisher and Monica Doumit
During a global pandemic, it would be far more appropriate for our church leaders to be encouraging their faith communities to get vaccinated (if they can) so that everyone is protected from this terrible disease. Our most vulnerable people are dying alone in isolation, without receiving the sacraments and Last Rites, or loved ones at their bedside in their final hour because they are so fearful of the vaccines. Is it not the mission of the Church, and our mission as Catholics, to educate and protect the most vulnerable in our society? I pray that all church leaders offer counsel and pastoral care to those in need of comfort and reassurance at this time, and not involve themselves in a debate with government which has the potential to further divide the faith community.
This is a grossly irresponsible attitude by the Church hierarchy and those parishioners who insist on their right to infect other people with this terrible disease. If you take an action that has an inevitable consequence, then by choosing to take the action you have intended the consequence. If you are unvaccinated and mix with other people, you will get the disease and you will infect others. More than 2 per cent of those you infect will, not might, die. The Australian church is once again following a pattern of not protecting the most vulnerable in the community. There are far too many “religious” organisations in Australia at the moment showing a total contempt for the safety of the broader community. I fully endorse Anna’s comments. Catholic church leaders should be working to protect their faith communities, not condemning the vulnerable to a terrible death. I wont be returning to any live celebration of the Sacraments while the Church pursues this reprehensible behaviour.
If the Australian Church hasn’t enough problems we now have senior members proposing special rules for its members. I was so disappointed that the Leaders of our Church could be so unthinking – we are experiencing a pandemic – we need to stick to the rules.
James R Smith