A LETTER FROM THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF VICTORIA
18 March 2020
Prayerful greetings to the people of God across Victoria,
This morning, the Prime Minister announced that non-essential indoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people, and outdoor events of more than 500 people will be disallowed, effective today. Given the seriousness of COVID-19, we support this measure as being responsible and sensible, and we encourage everyone to follow public safety guidelines respectfully.
The Bishops of the Province of Victoria have given this prayerful and considered reflection, and have determined the following actions:
• Immediate suspension of public liturgies, celebrations of the Mass, until further notice.
• All other gatherings are suspended. For clarification of any concerns, please contact your local diocesan authority.
We are very aware that this restriction will be particularly difficult for families who are planning liturgies such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. At this time, so long as appropriate precautions are able to be put in place (such as distancing between participants), it may be possible for these liturgies to proceed with a carefully limited congregation. Deferring these liturgies may also be an option that is offered to families.
In light of this, all Catholics in Victoria are dispensed from their Sunday obligation until further notice (canon 1248). We encourage you to continue active participation in the life of the Church, through activities such as time in personal and family prayer, reflecting on the Scriptures, making a spiritual communion, or participating in a Mass online (http://bit.ly/MassOnDemand or https:// melbournecatholic.org.au/Mass or www.wordonfire.org/daily-mass).
We encourage our priests to continue to celebrate Mass for the spiritual good of God’s people, the intentions of the faithful and the alleviation of the present crisis. We assure our people that the Mass is being offered for you in our parishes and that while you are not physically present, you still participate spiritually and that you are close to the hearts of your pastors in the Eucharist.
We urge the clergy to make themselves available to visit individuals, especially those who are unwell and vulnerable. This includes viaticum and all the opportunities for healing through the Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation.
Again, we encourage you to regularly consult your local websites for further details of local arrangements.
Tomorrow further pastoral guidelines will be shared in the Dioceses of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst. Clergy and religious should consult with their Ordinary if any questions remain uncertain.
All of this is happening during the Season of Lent, a time of preparation for the Easter mysteries. While we are invited to be self-sacrificial at this time, we must remember the words of Jesus upon appearing before his disciples after his resurrection: Again and again he said ‘peace be with you.’ (Jn 20:19) Let us not panic, nor be anxious, nor reduce ourselves to caring only for ourselves. This is a time to be sensible, practical, prayerful, and to share Christ’s peace with those who are struggling to feel calm and safe.
Thank you for all your patience, prayers and resilience.
Most Rev Peter A Comensoli
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE
Most Rev Shane Mackinlay
BISHOP OF SANDHURST
Most Rev Paul Bernard Bird CSsR MA, DD
BISHOP OF BALLARAT
Most Rev Patrick Michael O’Regan
BISHOP OF SALE