PARISH and school halls, boarding schools and other buildings owned by the Catholic Church will be put on standby as testing facilities and isolation centres for infected patients and front-line workers.
Catholic Emergency Relief Australia (CERA), which was initially set up to respond to the bushfire crisis, announced on April 1 that the Catholic Church was undertaking a national audit of buildings that could be made available to state and federal governments of health officials.
“With almost 1400 parishes, more than 1700 schools and retreat centres, for example, the Church has a variety of facilities like school and parish halls, boarding schools and other buildings that can be used as needed,” CERA chair Susan Pascoe said.
“As a very prominent part of each community across our nation, the Catholic Church has a responsibility in this pandemic, and the Church takes that seriously.”
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the national audit would double as a database that could assist in responding to other disasters.
This could mean turning Church properties into temporary evacuation centres, food banks or other purposes to serve the community as a whole.
Archbishop Coleridge said the Catholic Church was already responding to the crisis with front-line workers in health, education and pastoral ministries.
“The Catholic hospital and aged care network is at the forefront of the Church’s response, offering high-quality, compassionate care to those currently suffering from COVID-19,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“Catholic priests, religious women and men, pastoral workers and social service agencies are also working on the spiritual, emotional and psychological needs of people affected by the virus directly, as well as those for whom the social distancing and isolation guidelines are a burden.
“Our teachers are also supporting students, especially the children of essential, front-line workers.
“Catholic parishes, schools, religious orders and other ministries, however, have their own role to play in increasing the capacity of state and territory governments and their health departments to respond to this pandemic.”