Letter to priests about Alert Level Two

7 May 2020

Dear brothers in Christ,

Greetings to you all in this time of what may be the last days of Lockdown Level Three. We continue to be inspired by the creative ways in which you have been providing pastoral and spiritual care of your parishioners.

With the Prime Minister today announcing many details of what will be allowed under Level Two, we can at last look forward to our churches reopening and public Mass resuming. The date Level Two could begin is likely to be announced on Monday.

We cannot assume today that it will begin as quickly as we all hope, but we can start to pray and prepare for it.

Level Two restrictions will allow churches to be open and Mass to be celebrated, but with no more than 100 people present.

They will generally need to be seated a metre apart (families from the same “bubble” will likely be an exception).

Records will be needed of each person attending, for possible future contact tracing. Strict hygiene measures will be needed.

Weddings and funerals will be allowed in churches, again with a limit of 100 people present. You will be again able to visit parishioners in their homes to administer the Sacraments and for such other spiritual purposes as sought.

Your Bishops and the National Liturgy Office are giving urgent consideration as to how Holy Communion should be distributed.

The provisions of our 13 March advice remain in place: they included no holy water in fonts; no physical contact during the sign of peace; and communion under one kind and only on the hand.

We are looking at these and other issues urgently and with diligence, and we intend to provide substantial further guidance early next week.

Relevant parts of the Ministry of Health Alert Level Two restrictions and rules are attached for your immediate information.

Between now and early next week, we suggest that you consult with each other and your parish councils on how you might be able to meet the announced restrictions and hold Mass, looking at and considering how the Level Two rules apply to your individual churches.

We believe that each parish will need its own approach to ensure continued safety for you and your parishioners.

Last month, as Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’s Resurrection and the current crisis, he described how the time is ripe for “new imagination” allowing the “breath of the Spirit” to open new horizons.

We know you will apply your wonderful dedication and creativity to how we operate under Alert Level Two, as you have during this crisis to date and do in all matters of your parish.

Yours sincerely in Christ
✠ Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland and NZCBC President
✠ John Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington, NZCBC Vice President
✠ Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hamilton and NZCBC Secretary
✠ Paul Martin SM, Bishop of Christchurch
✠ Michael Dooley, Bishop of Dunedin
✠ Michael Gielen, Auxiliary Bishop of Auckland

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