17th November 2022
DIOCESE OF SALE PASTORAL GUIDELINES RE: COVID-19 NOVEMBER 2022
While we are pleased to see many of the earlier Covid Restrictions lifted across the State of Victoria, we are conscious Covid-19 has not been eradicated and there are still cases emerging across our parish communities. There is no doubt a level of “Covid fatigue”.
We are pleased that most aspects of our liturgical and pastoral practice have returned with people gathering once again. For some there is a hope that it is “business as usual”, while others remain fearful for many genuine reasons, others still have not returned to public gatherings. The following principles are offered as guidance and set some parameters within which local decisions may be based upon. These principles provide the balance of good practice and at the same time care for all. It is clear that our liturgies and other gatherings of the faithful should avoid personal contact i.e. use of the same vessels, common gestures etc.
We express our deepest gratitude for the manner in which parishes have engaged in following Covid Guidelines throughout the past two years. In many communities Covid-19 response led to the engagement of many who assisted in providing welcome, safety and attention to infection control. Thank you for the creative pastoral efforts which responded to the various spiritual needs of parishioners and those with whom you have ministered.
Sunday Mass: Each parish is blessed by the presence of those who gather for the Eucharist – the source and summit of the Christian life. Many have found great comfort in the ability to watch Mass on TV, internet and parish websites, however there is no substitute for gathering together as God’s holy people. The four presences of Christ in the Word, the Eucharist, the community and the presider remind us that we are the Body of Christ.
Each time we gather for Eucharist we continue to do what Jesus did at the Last Supper: He is truly with us as he promised offering himself that we might live. Giving himself that we might be fed and that we might feed others by his love.
We also encourage parishes to ensure those who are house-bound are being spiritually and emotionally supported.
Liturgical Considerations: At this time, we are well advised not to share in the use of common chalices: intinction will, for the time being, remain solely for concelebrants.
Sanitising hands before distribution of Holy Communion is still recommended.
Where there is physical touch as part of a Rite of the Church (for example, baptisms, confirmation and anointing of the sick or dying) the use of cotton buds is no longer mandated, but hands should be sanitised well before and after the Rite.
Holy Water stoups may be filled, but care should be seen that the water is changed regularly (at a minimum of once a week).
The use of hymn books and other worship aids are permitted as part of the liturgy, and Collection Plates may be returned.
Face coverings: Face coverings remain optional within Places of Worship. However, we are all encouraged to be sensitive to the well-being of others when in close proximity.
Clergy and Extraordinary Ministers are not required to wear face coverings for the distribution of communion. However, face coverings should be worn when visiting vulnerable or immunocompromised parishioners, or members of the community.
Face coverings are still required in sensitive settings such as hospitals and care facilities.
Vaccination Requirements: As was mentioned some weeks ago, there are no longer vaccination requirements at Places of Worship, associated workplaces or for parish activities.
Please be aware that vaccinations are still required in some settings including public, denominational and private hospitals, as well as public sector aged care facilities, day procedure centres and throughout ambulance services. Please continue to work with care providers in determining what is required and permitted.
COVIDSafe Plan: Just a reminder that all workplaces and Places of Worship that have onsite operations are still required to have a COVIDSafe Plan.
Issued by Bishop’s Office
17th November 2022