Pastoral care practice must not risk COVID-19 transmission

pastoral care

The archbishop of Wellington Cardinal John Dew said consideration must be given to the Covid-19 level 4 regulations when practising pastoral care.

He said there is a need to be pastorally close to the sick person and their family but not risk further virus transmission.

“The regulations around movement are to absolutely minimise the possibility of community transmission of the Covid-19 virus.”

“For the common good, therefore, we must follow those instructions to not create a greater evil.”

If someone needs pastoral care priests can be contacted by phone through their normal numbers.

Visits to the sick and housebound

If a priest is called to attend to the sick at home, this must be done by phone or electronic means such as video call rather than by home visit.

Pastoral teams will make arrangements to ensure that those who are sick or housebound receive spiritual care.

They will also keep in contact with those who are in self-isolation, and people should advise them if they are in this situation.

Communion to the sick who are not in danger of death is suspended.

For the critically ill at home, the normal process for contacting a priest in the area should be followed.

Most hospitals are in lockdown so access by a priest may be difficult but this situation will be managed by the Hospital Chaplaincy team and the hospital.

Priests who are on hospital duty will be specially trained for the new situation.

Priests who are not hospital chaplains cannot go to the hospitals automatically to visit parishioners.

Apart from the current travel restrictions, all access to hospitals is restricted.


As far as the anointing of the sick goes Dew said “Technically it is the words and the oil, not the anointing touch that is the matter and form of the sacrament.”

However, the risk of transmitting the virus by the proximity of the anointer and anointed (closer than one metre) means this is outside the regulations for social/physical distancing.

In the hospital setting, the ecumenical nature of the chaplaincy set-up means that a request from Catholics can be responded to.


No funerals are being celebrated. Funeral directors have advised that families have the choice of immediate cremation or burial, or putting bodies in their mortuary facilities.

Families should contact a priest for support using the normal contact details in parishes.


Marriages and marriage preparation courses are suspended.

Parish activities

All parish gatherings are suspended. This includes meetings; sacramental programmes; the conferring of First Holy Communion, First Reconciliation and Confirmation; Lent programmes; RCIA programmes; and the Second Rite of Reconciliation. Contact the parish about Reconciliation.

Parish Offices

Parish offices are closed but may be accessible through phone and email systems. There will be a way to contact a priest.

Buildings, not the community closed

The bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn said the buildings are closed but not the living church.

He encouraged people to let their parish priest know about people who are struggling.

“Regional St Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Caring Foundation are able to access resources and have the travel permissions that enable them to provide sustenance and care.”

Dunn said the phone ministry is the new normal.

“Even if a few minutes of ‘How are you?’ What are you up to? You are not alone.'”


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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