Traffic lights are go for Sunday Mass

Traffic Lights

Parish priests throughout New Zealand are working overtime in preparation to serve Sunday’s first congregations under the Government’s Traffic Light system.

Those CathNews has spoken to in “Orange”, are looking forward to the extra level of safety and greater congregational capacities they can offer their vaccinated congregations.

All, however, are treading a fine line establishing procedures that are welcoming and enforcing the law.

“This is the first weekend, it’s new for everyone so there will be bound to be teething problems”.

“I’m sure we’ll work them out,” said Peter Head, Parish Priest of Christchurch South.

Head is responsible for five churches in Christchurch.

“We’re very pleased to have larger congregations and we’re working hard to have our procedures in place to safely welcome people”, he said.

Head said the parish is focused on making sure that people are welcome and complies with government regulations.

“We’ve added a level of extra training for greeters”, he said.

Making sure the greeting was warm is the main point of consuming a priest north of Auckland whose parish is still in ‘Red’.

Happy to be interviewed, he did not want to be identified.

“There’s a fine line between protecting the vulnerable and giving the vaccinated a level of safety they deserve”, he said.

“The last thing we want is a confrontation at the door of the church.”

He told CathNews that having a parish Covid Committee has been a big help to him and the wider community.

Down country in Wellington Ohairu Parish Priest Pete Roe says that “If the parish gets it wrong it’s all my fault.

“I’m colour blind”, he said laughing.

Roe operated his three parish churches at capacity during Level 2 and is looking forward to welcoming more of the parish under ‘Orange’.

He says the paperwork has been the real challenge, not just the amount of it, but the government regulations are a “little sneaky” he said.

Pressed, he said that under ‘Orange’, on page four of the regulations it says ‘Gatherings at a place of worship have no limits’ then a couple of pages over says there are capacity limits based on 1 metre distancing.

Reading further Roe says the regulation clarifies that people do not need to stand a metre apart, but 1 metre distancing means the maximum number of people who can occupy the space as if each person was a metre apart.

“It adds a needless layer of complexity”, he said.

Roe told CathNews that as well as readying the three churches, he is also having to educate the people.

“One of the churches wanted to have the vaccinated congregation in the church and the unvaccinated separately in the kitchen”!

Further up the line, in Kapiti, Parish Priest Dr Michael McCabe describes the situation as “pastorally complex”.

He told CathNews that there is strong guidance and church approval to get vaccinated and there are no winners in this ‘vaccinated vs unvaccinated’ situation.

“We appreciate the difficulties but also appreciate the need.

“While respecting people’s conscience, for the greater good I’m encouraging my parishioners to get vaccinated.”

“It’s not just words but a witness to the common good,” said McCabe.

“Look, if it’s good enough for Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, it’s good enough for me too”, he said.

Dr McCabe got his ‘booster’ on Thursday morning.

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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston, Top Story.

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