Vaccine passport destined for Sydney churchgoers

The Australian

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher is questioning the New South Wales government decision to show proof of vaccination before churchgoers can go inside.

The rules for opening churches are being challenged by a number of religious leaders, including Fisher and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka Raffel.

They are also pushing Health Minister Brad Hazzard for an exemption to the 70 percent rule on the grounds no one should be turned away from church.

We told the government that worship was “an essential service, not mere recreation” for many people, Fisher says.

“We explained that all our faiths are inclined to allow all comers to worship, that many pastors and faithful would be uneasy with restricting worship to the fully vaccinated and that doing so could prove very divisive,” Fisher says.

“Race, gender, ethnicity, age, education, wealth or health status (including vaccination) must not be points of division within the Christian community or barriers to communion with Jesus”.

Hazzard, however, is standing firmly the state government’s ‘roadmap’ out of strict lockdown.

Making exceptions on religious grounds seems unlikely.

Under the roadmap, Deputy Premier John Barilaro says only fully vaccinated people will “have access to the freedoms allowed”.

Listed under the freedoms for fully vaccinated adults was that churches and places of worship could open subject to one person per 4sqm rule, with no singing.

Masks will remain compulsory for all indoor public venues, including churches and on public transport, retail and business premises.

Some ministers of religion have also publicly contemplated civil disobedience if the government keeps the requirement.

“Churches have a responsibility to minister to all, regardless of immunisation status, so we will be discussing with government how we can fulfil that ministry commitment in future stages of the recovery,” Raffel says.

“We want everybody to be safe at church, but we also want to make sure we minister to everybody.”

Fisher says he is committed to ensuring a safe return to worship for everyone and is working with a leading infectious diseases and risk management specialist to help plan for this.

Last week before the roadmap was announced, Anglican minister Phil Colgan, said he could not imagine a scenario in which he would turn away parishioners who weren’t vaccinated.

“Even if it is consistent and churches are treated the same as cinemas … I still question whether the government has the right to impose on churches something we don’t accept.

“I think it’s really important to note that all of our acceptance of government limitations to date I consider to have been voluntary …

“But there might come a time, like with a vaccine passport for me, where I would say …, ‘no’…

“I can’t ever see a time when I would deny someone access to fellowship on the grounds of their vaccination status.”



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