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Virus is ‘not God’s punishment’

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the outdoor Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary in Fairfield on Laetare Sunday 22 March. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Words of comfort as archbishop farewells Fairfield

As government restrictions tighten to slow virus transmission throughout the country, the church and all its members have important roles to play in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, says Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.

Speaking before the start of a Mass in the primary school playground at Our Lady of the Rosary in Fairfield the day before all public Masses in the country were suspended, the archbishop said that as the Government ramps up its precautionary measures “the Church is determined to play its part with constant intercession, health care and pastoral care”.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and fellow clergy leave the outdoor altar in procession following Mass – several hours later the Prime Minister announced that all public Masses would be suspended in the country. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Around 200 parishioners attended the 22 March Mass which was celebrated in line with restrictions limiting public gatherings to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors.

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presided over the Mass which also concluded his visitation of the parish during the week. He also admitted parishioner Raymond Hung as a candidate to the diaconate.

Parishioners received numbered tickets upon arrival at the school gate, which was to be closed after close to 500 had been given out. Prior to Mass reminders were read out about social distancing guidelines, the ways in which the virus is spread, and people were asked to go home if they felt at all unwell.

“Such things should shake us up”

In his homily Archbishop Fisher said that the times, especially since the beginning of the year in Australia with droughts, fires, floods, and now plague, certainly seemed apocalyptic, but that “sometimes bad things happen to good people”.

“Don’t assume that coronavirus is God’s punishment,” he said. “Yet such things should shake us up, make us think about what or who matters most to us. [They should make us] reconsider what we’ll do with what’s left of our lives.”

Priests’ pastoral care to only increase

At the conclusion of the Mass the archbishop asked those gathered to maintain their own personal ministry of intercession “for the sick, and the dead and those at risk, for health professionals and researchers and for the authorities”.

“The priests of Sydney will continue to offer Mass  with you for as long as we can, subject to government restrictions and public health precautions, if they can no longer offer public Masses with you, they will offer private Masses for you. Our pastoral care will increase, not decrease.

“God and you are our first concern.”

Father Michael de Stoop thanked the archbishop for his gift of dedicated and focussed presence in the parish during a challenging week.

Lina Nguyen, member of the parish’s Vietnamese choir was present with her young daughters Natalia and Mikaylah.

“Today is amazing, with everything that’s happening it’s good to get together,” she told The Catholic Weekly. “We always go to Mass on Sunday and we wanted to give our children a bit of normality.”

Ron Ao, one of the volunteer marshals helping to maintain the social distancing requirements said he was grateful that Mass had been offered in the parish and “very happy” to have the archbishop celebrate it with them.

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