Catholic bishops tolerate society’s Covid restrictions – for now

The New Zealand Catholic bishops are prepared to tolerate the State’s sweeping public health measures, however, they want the mandates and vaccine pass requirements to be continually reviewed.

Their support of the government’s Covid measures is contingent on and only justified by, “the emergency situation as it exists at this point in time.”

While all the bishops are fully vaccinated, they are concerned about others, particularly the most vulnerable while they adapt to the Covid world.

Moving forward, the bishops are keen New Zealand adopts rapid antigen testing.

Rapid antigen testing could offer non-vaccinated people less restrictive options within the employment, social, hospitality, religious and recreational sectors, they say pastoral letter issued last week.

Acknowledging the Covid restrictions, the bishops invite Catholics to embrace creativity in meeting the need to be unified as the Body of Christ.

“One of the things we have learnt over the past 20 months is that our identity as communities of faith is not ultimately defined by an inability to physically gather.”

In their statement, the bishops note, with concern, the intolerance for Covid restrictions – especially the lockdown created ones – that give rise to the possibility of divisions developing in the community; they ask people to show ‘restraint and discipline’: showing love, care and respect to people whose decisions are different from ours is in line with Gospel values.

“We know that the tensions emerging around vaccine mandates and the My Vaccine Pass are creating lines of division within families, faith communities, friendship circles and places of work,” they say.

To ensure people can attend Church gatherings safely, feel connected, welcome and included without prejudice while remaining within the confines of the current legal requirements, the bishops have decided:

  • In line with the traffic light system, Masses will be provided for fully vaccinated people using the My Vaccine Pass.
  • Parishes, perhaps in conjunction with neighbouring parishes will provide opportunities for Mass, subject to Government-mandated number restrictions, for those who are not fully vaccinated.
  • All those involved in public-facing ministries relating to church services and parish ministries need to be fully vaccinated at fully vaccinated Masses.
  • Priests who are not fully vaccinated or who do not wish to declare their vaccination status will not be able to preside nor attend vaccinated-only Church events.
  • When asking a fully vaccinated priest to preside at a service open to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated, parishes and priests need to give due consideration to any specific health conditions a priest may have which could make him more susceptible to the health consequences of being infected by Covid-19.
  •  Similarly, all church workers (whether paid or voluntary) involved in home-based pastoral care visitations need to have regard for the vaccine status of those they are visiting, along with their own health conditions which may make them more susceptible to the health consequences of being infected by Covid-19.
  •  Current restrictions on holy water, social distancing, Holy Communion in the hand etc remain.


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston, Top Story.

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