Churches to be open and welcoming but the law is the law

Churches to be open and welcoming

Many parishes have expressed concern about how to manage entry criteria when unvaccinated people insist on joining the vaccinated community.

It is a concern Wellington’s Cardinal John Dew has met with a set of instructions and suggestions for the Wellington archdiocese to follow.

Writing, Thursday, to priests and lay pastoral leaders he has told them he wants churches in the archdiocese to be open and welcoming, but at the same time they need to work within the government’s Covid-19 Protection Framework.

Dew’s guidelines for volunteers checking Vaccine Passes before Mass are based around a friendly, warm but if necessary firm approach.

Parish priests and lay pastoral leaders are responsible for ensuring churches and other gathering places in their parish comply with the new traffic lights entry criteria.

“As Parish Priests and Lay Pastoral Leaders it will be necessary for you to ensure that at churches and other gathering places in your parish the new regulations are complied with”, he writes.

“You or your delegates must sight each person’s My Vaccine Pass or verify it using the NZ Pass Verifier App as they enter”.

Among the bundle of four documents sent Tuesday is a letter of authority.

“As the Archbishop of Wellington and the legal owner of parish property I grant you and your delegated the authority to refuse person entry, and/or instruct a person to leave a church or other gathering place in your parish where you deem it necessary to ensure compliance with the above rules and/or to prevent the risk of spread of Covig-19”, Dew tells the priests and lay pastoral workers.

He says this authority includes but is not limited to circumstances where a person is not vaccinated, or has not proven their vaccination status, displaying symptoms associated with Covid-19 and / or their presence within the premises may breach the gathering limits or other rules imposed under the Covid-19 Public Health Act and any regulations made under that Act.

With the bundle of documents is one that outlines the weekend gatherings that do not require a My Vaccine Pass in the Archdiocese and a link to the Our Lady of Kapiti live stream Mass.

Dew tells the priests and lay pastoral leaders that when there is a transgression, the offending people are to be engaged with politely and respectfully, but ultimately if they are unvaccinated they need to leave.

He encourages parish priests and lay pastoral leaders to plan ahead and that if they believed they may meet resistance, to consider identifying the possibility ahead of time and invite police, Māori Warden, Pacific Island Warden, community patrol member, social worker, or security guard, as appropriate to be present at the time the community gathers.

He goes as far as saying that as a last resort if the priests and lay pastoral workers meet real resistance and that ultimately if things escalate, to call the Police on 111 and explain the situation.

Dew concludes by saying that the parish is obligated to do what it can to adhere to the new rules of gathering under the Traffic Light System and warns that if exceptions are made the parish is liable for a substantial fine and the risk of Covid-19 infection is unduly increased.

My Vaccine Pass holders have a right to expect that everyone inside is vaccinated (and has a Pass to prove it).


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