15 May 2020

Directives for Churches and Chapels within the
Catholic Diocese of Geraldton Phase 2 of Western Australia’s COVID Roadmap from
The Most Rev Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Western Australian Government has implemented the COVID-19 Roadmap. The WA COVID-19 Roadmap is a four-phase roadmap which has been developed in conjunction with the National Cabinet principles (https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-08may20 - Summary) and is based on relevant public health advice for Western Australia. On Monday 18 May 2020, Western Australia will commence Phase 2 of the roadmap. The WA COVID-19 roadmap can be access at https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap

I commit the Diocese of Geraldton to the support of, and compliance with, government directives and associated public health advice. The Western Australian and Federal Governments continue to issue ongoing public health advice in relation to COVID–19.   The Diocese of Geraldton continues to be guided by this advice through our ongoing commitment to monitoring any threat posed by COVID–19 to Catholic communities across our Archdiocese. Clergy and the faithful are encouraged to download the CovidSafe App and observe the latest public health advice.

I write to share with you a revised series of directives which come into effect across the Diocese of Geraldton commencing Monday 18 May 2020. The website of the Diocese of Geraldton has a dedicated COVID-19 web page on which all statements from the Diocese of Geraldton can be found. You can access this page at: https://www.geraldtondiocese.org.au/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/759-2020-03-19-bishop-s-pastoral-letter-in-the-time-of-pandemic

The following directives apply to the clergy, religious and the lay faithful of the Diocese of Geraldton and commence on Monday 18 May 2020: 

  • Churches are permitted to open in a modified way with a limit of twenty (20) attendees present within the church at any one time for private prayer, Adoration and Confessions. Parishioners need to be notified of the times the church is open outside of which the church is to closed.
  • Priests (or their nominated delegate) must ensure that the name and contact details of every person who enters a church for any reason is recorded as per government directives. Churches must retain these records. No record is to be made of the reason why the person has attended the church.
  • Indoor religious services are permitted with a limit of twenty (20) attendees in the congregation. An additional ten (10) people who are required to conduct the religious service or to broadcast the service may be present. Additional participants are to be restricted to as few as possible. Social distancing of four (4) square metres must be observed with a physical distance of 1.5 meters between people.
  • Persons who feel unwell, who have flu/respiratory symptoms, elevated body temperatures or who have been in contact in the previous fourteen (14) days with persons suspected to have, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are not permitted to enter churches.
  • Seating in the Church: Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed inside the church. Available seating must be clearly marked with signage to assist in maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 meters between people.
  • Hand sanitizers to be available at each entrance to any church or chapel.
  • Clear guidelines must be put in place to direct people on how to enter and exit the church to ensure that this is done systematically to ensure that appropriate social distancing is observed.
  • Holy Water fonts/stoups in all churches and chapels are to remain empty.
  • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rails, kneelers, doors, doorknobs, microphones, sacristies, toilets/bathrooms and all other communal areas are to be wiped down and sanitised after each liturgical celebration.
  • Parish newsletters or bulletins should not be re-used. Sufficient copies should be made to ensure that people get copies, but then they must either take them home or dispose of them.
  • Hymnals or shared copies of texts are not to be used.
  • Parish Priests and Pastoral Leaders in consultation with their communities of worship, are to put in place regulations for churches and chapels (including Adoration Chapels) to ensure that the number of people present in the church or chapel conforms to government regulated numbers at all times.

Celebration of the Sacraments of the Church

The celebration of First Reconciliation (school-aged children), First Holy Communion (school-aged children) and Confirmation (school-aged children and others) remains temporarily suspended, except for those in danger of death.

Baptism

  • Baptism may be celebrated with a limit of twenty (20) attendees present within the church. Up to an additional ten (10) people who are required to conduct the baptism or to broadcast the baptism may be present.
  • Fresh baptismal water must be used for each candidate.
  • Full immersion baptism is discouraged unless the water in the baptismal pool is drained between candidates. The baptismal pool must subsequently be cleaned and disinfected after each full immersion.
  • For the anointing with Chrism at baptism, the celebrant should use cotton balls with a separate one for each candidate. These cotton balls must disposed of appropriately after the celebration.
  • The contact details (name, phone number, address and/or email address) of each person entering the church for Baptism must be recorded and retained. No record should be kept of the reason for the person’s presence in the church.
  • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
  • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

Confessions

  • Priests can provide opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, according to the First Rite. No Second Rite is to be celebrated.
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation is to occur in a well-ventilated space and with appropriate social distancing being maintained at all times, including the absolution. The Sacrament can be celebrated in the sanctuary but provision for anonymity should be made.
  • The contact details (name, phone number, address and/or email address) of each person entering the church for Confession must be recorded and retained. No record should be kept of the reason for the person’s presence in the church.
  • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
  • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

Masses

Priests must exercise judgement in deciding whether it is yet practicable to conduct public Masses. In-light of the restricted numbers of attendees, 20 people, under Phase 2 of the WA Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap, it may be necessary for Parish Priests to implement revised weekday and weekend Mass timetables. Parishes are to put in place procedures to ensure that numbers of attendees at all Masses conform to the directives of the Western Australian Government. In some parishes of the diocese, the Sunday Mass attendance exceeds 100 which would mean 5 Masses which is impractical. The faithful continue to be dispensed of their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

      • Allocated seating for each member of the congregation is to be clearly indicated through the use of signage.
      • As in my earlier directive in March, all Communicants will continue to receive Holy Communion in the hand until the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
      • Offertory gifts are to be in closed vessels or, where this is not possible, vessels should be appropriately covered.
      • Offertory processions and Gospel processions are to be omitted.
      • The Sign of Peace is to be omitted or given without physical contact.
      • Collections are not to be taken up during the Mass. Churches can install boxes or containers for offerings at the entrance to the church or wherever they decide to be appropriate.
      • All sacred vessels are to be thoroughly washed before and after each Mass. 
      • The Precious Blood is not to be shared from the chalice at any Masses and is reserved to the celebrant(s) only. The celebrant and concelebrants are to receive from the chalice by intinction.
      • All priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are to wash their hands in soap and water or are to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser both immediately before and immediately after the distribution of Holy Communion.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 meters between people in the Communion Procession is to be observed. Churches may wish to dedicate ushers to facilitate the movement of people at the time Communion is distributed.
      • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rail and kneelers are to be wiped down and sanitised after each Mass.
      • The pulpit, lectern, credence table, ministers’ seats – and anything handled by multiple people is to be wiped down and sanitised after each Mass.
      • Church ushers may need to remind parishioners and the faithful to maintain social distancing when they are entering or leaving a church for Mass.
      • Those who wish to wear masks when attending Mass are encouraged to do so.
      • If live music is used it is recommended that there be only one musician and one cantor.
      • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 meters per person must be observed.

Confirmations

      • The celebration of Confirmation is temporarily postponed, except in danger of death or when the baptism of an adult is celebrated.

Weddings

      • The celebration of each wedding must adhere to the Phase 2 of the Western Australian Government’s restriction of twenty (20) attendees at indoor weddings, or up to thirty (30) attendees at outdoor weddings.
      • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

 Funerals

      • Up to twenty (20) attendees can be present at an indoor funeral or up to thirty (30) attendees for an outdoor funeral, not including the person/s necessary to conduct the service e.g. celebrant, funeral director (unless the funeral is in a small indoor or outdoor venue and impacted by prohibited gathering rules which require at least 4 square metres per person) unless an exemption is approved.

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (for individuals)

      • ‘Those who have the care of souls and those who are close to the sick are to see to it that the sick are consoled by the sacrament of anointing at the appropriate time’ (Canon 1001).
      • Priests will continue to respond to appropriate requests to anoint people and will continue to celebrate the sacrament on an individual basis.
      • Upon request, and with strict compliance with restrictions in place within nursing homes, aged-care facilities and hospitals, priests will continue to minister the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
      • Please be aware that ‘in case of necessity ... it is sufficient that a single anointing be given on the forehead or, because of the particular condition of the sick person, on another suitable part of the body, while the whole sacramental form is said.’

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (for two or more people)

      • The communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick (two or more people receiving the sacrament consecutively in a single celebration) is to be temporarily suspended.  

Resources

A variety of resources continue to be offered by the Diocese of Geraldton on the dedicated COVID-19 webpage, as shown above.

The Western Australian Governments four-phase COVID-19 Roadmap

Current information on the measures being taken to protect the Western Australian community in order to minimise the potential impacts of COVID-19 in WA can be found at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap

It is anticipated that the Western Australian Government will progress from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and Phase 4 in the coming weeks and months. These changes will provide additional scope for a revision of the directives which have been applied to the Diocese of Geraldton. Subsequent guidelines relevant to the Diocese of Geraldton will be issued accordingly to reflect the Western Australia Government’s implementation of Phase 3 and Phase 4. 

It is incumbent on each of us to exercise responsibility in keeping infection rates low and demonstrating diligent citizenship as well as Christian concern and charity.

I assure you of my continued prayers and practical support as together we as an Archdiocese seek to continue to witness and proclaim our Christ-centred hope within a global context that is collectively seeking to respond to the uncertainty and reality of COVID-19. 


Yours sincerely in Christ

Most Rev Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton

 

Vision Statement

We are:

* a welcoming community which reaches out to all
* celebrating Christ's presence
* joyfully living out our Christian calling across distance and diversity

This vision states that as a Diocese, we aim to be a welcoming, missionary, centred on Christ, and each striving to live one's particular vocation. It is in living out our calling that we praise God, follow Christ, influence society and achieve the goal of eternal life won for us by Christ. In the parishes we have encouraged people to measure whatever they do against this Diocesan vision.

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Catholic Diocese
of GERALDTON
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7 Maitland Street
PO Box 46
Geraldton WA 6531

Chancery Ph: +61 8 9921 3221

Cathedral Parish Ph: +61 8 9964 1608 (diverts a/hrs)