WelCom December 2021
The Catholic Bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand have expressed their support for the introduction of vaccine mandates and vaccine passes, saying they are ‘justified by the emergency situation that exists at this point in time’.
In a Pastoral Letter entitled Living, Caring, Worshipping and Ministering in a Covid-19 World, the bishops say that ‘as a society, we should never uncritically accept the imposition of such restrictions by our political leaders. However, having regard to the current situation, ‘we bishops believe that, on balance, the introduction of vaccine mandates for certain sectors, as well as the use of vaccine passes, are warranted for now’.
‘At the same time, remaining always mindful of state overreach, and anticipating that restrictions we may consider to be warranted now may not be warranted in the future, we urge that the mandates and requirements for vaccine passes be continually reviewed.’
The Pastoral Letter sets out guidelines for Catholic parishes in responding to the ‘traffic lights system’, which is now in place for dealing with the Covid-19 virus. The guidelines state that parishes will provide Masses for people with a ‘My Vaccine Pass’ while also ensuring there is the opportunity for people to access a separate, numbers-restricted Mass without proof of vaccination.
The bishops say that priests who are not fully vaccinated ‘will be significantly constrained in their ministry; they will be unable to exercise pastoral care in aged-care residential settings or hospitals as well as schools’.
The Pastoral Letter acknowledges the efforts and sacrifices which have been made, saying ‘we are acutely aware that certain people have carried, and continue to carry the burdens and negative consequences of the Covid-19 restrictions more than others’.
The bishops express their concern about the tensions and divisions in the country, which are growing with the push to get people vaccinated. The Pastoral Letter says the bishops themselves have been challenged by people about their promotion of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The Pastoral Letter sets out the bishops’ reasons for their support of vaccination, noting: ‘We bishops are vaccinated. We renew our call for those of you who are not yet vaccinated to do so.’