BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge announced all Sunday Masses, including Saturday vigil, were suspended with immediate effect until further notice and all the faithful were dispensed from their Sunday obligation.
In a pastoral letter, Archbishop Coleridge said these were “anxious times” as the country entered into “new and uncharted territory”.
“The spread of the coronavirus is alarming for a generation that has known nothing like it, and it shows how fragile we are,” he said.
“How long it will last we do not know, but almost certainly we are in for the long haul.
“For all of us, this is a challenge at many levels.”
High-level archdiocesan meetings met each day as further information and recommendations were passed down from government agencies, he said.
“Now in the light of the latest advice from the Government and Catholic Health Australia, the archdiocese has come to further decisions,” he said.
In light of the Sunday Mass ban, the archbishop said priests would continue to celebrate Mass (the Mass for the people) on Sunday without a congregation, which would be live-streamed from St Stephen’s Cathedral at archbne.org/bzw on Sundays and weekdays.
Other changes were outlined as follows:
• For the time being, weekday Masses may be celebrated as scheduled, with the current restrictions and precautions to be observed.
• The Sacrament of Reconciliation should in general be celebrated only by appointment with the priest, with the current precautions to be observed.
• Any Church celebration or event where more than 100 people are expected should be cancelled or postponed.
• All attending any Church celebration or event should respect the requirements of physical distancing.
• All ministers of Holy Communion, including the priest, should disinfect their hands before and after distributing.
• In the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, the Body of Christ should be administered only in the hand and the chalice should be received by the celebrant alone.
• The Sign of Peace should be limited to saying “Peace be with you” with a nod or bow; no hand-shaking or hand-holding should occur here or at the Our Father.
• Hymn books should not be used.
• As far as possible, churches should remain open to allow private prayer; the Blessed Sacrament might be exposed in the monstrance for this purpose – as long as fewer than 100 are attending and with the usual provisions for reverence and security of the Sacrament.
• Communion to the sick should be taken by priests alone and in general be restricted to Viaticum to the dying, with the current restrictions and precautions to be observed.
• Prayers of intercession for an end to the pandemic and for the safety of all should be included in Masses, in the Liturgy of the Hours and in private prayer; houses of consecrated religious are asked to intensify their intercessory prayer also.
• Baptisms, weddings and funerals may be celebrated, but restricted if necessary to immediate family; baptisms and weddings can always be postponed.
• Preparation for and celebration of First Penance, Confirmation and First Communion should be postponed until the pandemic is over.
• Priests should ensure that parishioners can contact them in emergencies.
Archbishop Coleridge said it was essential in a time such as this to strengthen and deepen our spiritual life, precisely so that we do not “lose sight of Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
“The Archdiocese will do everything possible to assist you with this; and there is an abundance of online resources – including Mass at home – to nourish your faith through this time,” he said.
“As Pope Francis has said, pastors will have to show creativity in ministering to their people; and there are many examples of this around the world, with technology making it less difficult than in the past.”
Archbishop Coleridge closed the letter with two prayers, one he handwrote.
Brisbane archdiocese’s new directions were part of a national move by bishops in light of the Australian Government’s ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 announced yesterday.