Sydney plan to reopen churches for all

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The re-opening of places of worship will be staged in line with the NSW Government Roadmap announced on 27 September.
The re-opening of places of worship will be staged in line with the NSW Government Roadmap announced on 27 September.

Sydney Archdiocesan Vicar General Fr Gerry Gleeson announced a roadmap to Catholic church openings following announcements by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week.

Fr Gleeson said the re-opening of places of worship will be staged in line with the NSW Government Roadmap announced on 27 September, but churches will not open only to vaccinated people when they are permitted to do so during the first stage.

In allowing churches to open their doors in October, Premier Berejiklian acknowledged that for people of faith, worship is more like an essential service than a recreation.

Stage One of the Government roadmap begins when 70 per cent of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. That is expected to occur on 11 October, when churches will be permitted to open for the vaccinated.

“Archbishop Fisher said he was committed to ensuring a safe return to worship for everyone and that one’s vaccination status must not be a barrier to communion with Jesus Christ.”

However, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has decided to wait a further two weeks before re-opening churches in the archdiocese and conducting public Masses, Fr Gleeson advised in a statement.

Last month Archbishop Fisher said he was committed to ensuring a safe return to worship for everyone and that one’s vaccination status must not be a barrier to communion with Jesus Christ.

He also said he had been in discussions with the NSW Government and NSW Health, joining other religious leaders in insisting that worship is an essential service.

Stage Two, estimated to begin on 25 October with 80 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, is when the archdiocese will open churches under the 4 square metre rule to everyone, whether fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Parishioners observe social distancing guidelines in the last Mass at St Charles Borromeo before the shutdown. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Masks must be worn indoors and churches will not be required to check people’s vaccination status.

“We continue to urge everyone to be vaccinated, and so reduce their risk of serious illness or even death,” Fr Gleeson said.

“We will do all that is reasonably possible to keep safe everyone who comes to church: there will be good ventilation, social distancing, hand sanitising, no congregational singing, etc.

“People who are especially vulnerable, who are vaccinated but anxious about mixing with the unvaccinated, or who are unvaccinated and do not want to risk contact with others, are free to remain at home and live-streaming of Masses from the cathedral and some parishes will continue.”

“Stage Two, estimated to begin on 25 October with 80 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, is when the archdiocese will open churches under the 4 square metre rule to everyone, whether fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.”

Stage Three when 90 per cent vaccination is reached, around 1 December, will see churches move to a 2 square metre rule with no limits at outdoor Masses, and dancing permitted at weddings.

Covid Safe plans will be required for outdoor events with more than 1,000 people, but masks will not be required inside a church.

At State Three the archdiocese will continue to encourage the faithful to be vaccinated, “to provide them with good information, and to offer them particular care since they (and certain vulnerable others) will be most at risk,” Fr Gerry said.

“We will also offer particular care to those faithful who, though fully vaccinated, are anxious about congregating at this time.”

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