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Confirmed cases linked to Sydney Maronite church reinforces health practices in Queensland

Virus concerns: A nurse disinfects an examination room table after testing a patient for COVID-19 at Westmead Hospital in Sydney. Photo: CNS

A COVID-19 scare within a Catholic community in western Sydney, has reinforced the need for Queensland parishes to keep safe with strict health practices that include practicing social distancing, keeping attendance records and cleaning thoroughly after gatherings.

“You are doing a marvellous job trying to deal with all the complexities of opening the church again and keeping people safe,” Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell said, recognising the deep impact of the pandemic, during a visit to Bracken Ridge Parish last Sunday.

 “Thank you to all of those who are working so hard to make sure this happens because without the Eucharist all of our lives are incomplete. 

“So we need that sense of being able to gather as Christ’s faithful here and we very much look forward to when the church can be full again and everyone safe.”

Restrictions means churches in Brisbane’s parishes may open for Mass and private prayer, for up to 100 people at a time, depending upon the size of the church.

Some parishes are holding masses in Church halls as there is more space available.

Weddings, baptisms and funerals may be attended by up to 100 people depending upon the size of the church. 

The importance of restrictions was underlined last weekend as a Maronite Catholic priest and his family were forced into 14-day self-isolation and a church in western Sydney closed for 48 hours after a COVID-19 scare.

Churchgoers at Our Lady of Lebanon co-cathedral in Harris Park stood shoulder to shoulder to receive communion at Mass just hours after the son of assistant priest, Fr Danny Nour was confirmed to have coronavirus.

The priest’s son, Michael who regularly attends services, tested positive for COVID-19 after dining with his friends at a restaurant identified as a virus hotspot.

The church underwent three rounds of deep cleaning in line with New South Wales health requirements and was later closed “as a precautionary measure”.

“Michael and my entire family are now in self-isolation at home since,” Fr Nour said in a statement on Facebook

“My wife, my son, my daughter and I have all been tested and our results are negative with the exception of Michael.

“We have also informed all those who have been in close contact with Michael since his symptoms emerged and they have also been tested.

“This is a reminder to all of us that we need to continue to follow and abide by the social-distancing guidelines and regulations set out by the government.”

Fr Nour said his son was doing well and asked for worshippers to continue praying for the pandemic to be over and for a vaccine.

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay said the Church “has a responsibility to act in a way that respects the health and safety of everyone in the community and the wider community”.

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