WelCom February 2022
Cardinal Dew has written to priests and lay pastoral leaders of the archdiocese, urging them to think carefully about how they will manage the challenges of parish life at the Red Level of the Covid-19 Protection Framework.
Under Red, gatherings of vaccinated people are limited to no more than 100 people. A Mass registration system is available to parishes to manage numbers attending Masses.
The Cardinal says he intends to communicate frequently with parishes ‘as the outbreak progresses as we may need to make changes quickly and deal with unforeseen situations.’
In his letter the Cardinal says ‘it is possible as the outbreak gathers speed we will see a reduction in numbers at Masses because people are sick, close contacts or vulnerable because of age or health status.
‘If any part of the archdiocese is badly affected by the outbreak, please don’t hesitate to suspend Masses in your parish or area.’
Priests are urged to remind people that the dispensation from the Sunday obligation is still in place, and parishioners should not come to Mass if they have flu-like symptoms, are awaiting test results or are in contact with an infected person.
Any form of singing during Mass is discouraged and priests are reminded to wear a mask throughout the Mass, except for the Eucharistic Prayer. Those conducting Liturgies of Word and Communion should also wear a mask throughout the liturgy.
‘If a priest is sick or has to isolate, the Masses he is scheduled for should be cancelled or replaced by a Liturgy of the Word and Communion if it is safe to do so. Finding replacement celebrants will be unrealistic as the outbreak increases, and will create a lot of strain. Only seek a replacement if absolutely essential, for example, for a funeral.’
The Cardinal says that ‘taking communion to the sick can continue at this early stage, but it should only be done by people who have received all three vaccinations. We may need to suspend it as the outbreak accelerates.’
While the pandemic presents immense challenges, the Cardinal says that it ‘also presents opportunities to be creative in the way we minister to people and ensure we reach out as much as we possibly can to others, especially this isolated and alone, those unwell and anxious.’
In a later communication to parishes, the Cardinal clarified that with a Red Level setting it is now mandatory for masks to be worn at gatherings, including Masses. People leading a faith-based gathering do not have to wear a mask but the Cardinal’s recommendation was that liturgical leaders wear a mask ‘whenever we are projecting our voice to the congregation’. Passing round the collection plate is also discouraged – the plate can be placed at the door as people leave.