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Faithful gathering safely as more churches open their doors and restrictions ease on funerals in Queensland

Doors opening: Parishioners gather, suitably distanced, outside St Brigid’s after Mass for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) on Sunday, June 14.

PARISHIONERS are returning to Queensland churches in the flesh, and at St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill, there was no better day to celebrate that than the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) last Sunday.

About 50 people gathered after Corpus Christi Mass, suitably distanced, to be present with Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Father Rony Chacko who celebrated Mass.

St Brigid’s Church, part of Jubilee parish, was using an online booking system, Eventbrite, to manage the restrictions on numbers in each of its six churches.

Parishes across Brisbane were starting to open their doors to more people as coronavirus restrictions continued to ease.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that up to 100 people could attend funerals across the state from June 16.

This number was the same for parishes operating under either the COVID-19 Safe Plan for Parish Communities or the Industry COVID Safe Plan for Places of Worship in Queensland.

Funeral mourners would still need to follow usual hygiene and social distancing procedures.

The next of kin also must keep a record of attendees for 56 days, in case it was needed for contact tracing. The 100 attendees rule applied only to funerals, it did not apply to wake – wakes were considered a gathering and were to follow relevant venue requirements.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said he hoped the lifting the maximum number from 50 to 100, in effect from June 16, would “provide some level of comfort for people in mourning”.

“This has been an incredibly tough time for everyone, let alone those grieving the loss of a loved one,” Mr Miles said.

“This latest easing of restrictions is yet another indication of how well Queenslanders have responded to our directions and advice.”

Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said limiting attendances at funerals was the most difficult direction she had to impose.

“There have been occasions where I have had to decline exemptions because of the COVID-19 risk,” Dr Young said.

“These are tough, heart-wrenching decisions to make but they’ve unfortunately been necessary to prevent transmission of this disease, particularly among gatherings that include a lot of vulnerable people.

“I’m relieved that we have contained COVID-19 to the point where we can begin lifting limitations on important events like funerals.”

Dr Young said funeral organisers needed to keep a record of attendees for eight weeks in case contact tracing was necessary at a later date.

Weddings remained capped at 20 guests because they could be postponed unlike funerals.

But as COVID-19 cases in Australia dwindle, elsewhere in the world death tolls continue to climb.

The United States’ death toll hit more than 118,00 people last week – surpassing the total number of US military deaths from the First World War.

At time of writing, the total number of global cases sat at more than eight million.

Pope Francis continued to offer Masses via livestream for an end to the pandemic and said the pandemic had revealed poverty Catholics could not ignore.

“The Word of God allows for no complacency; it constantly impels us to acts of love,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for World Day of the Poor 2020, which was released on June 13.

“This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness.

“This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help.”

Pope Francis said that “time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbour in need”.

“Prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable,” he said.

The economic toll of the pandemic was being felt across the world.

In Brazil, COVID-19 cases had reached more than 891,000 and it had impacted child labour exploitation.

Children were being “forced into jobs that are inappropriate for their age, so as to help their own families who are in conditions of extreme poverty”, Pope Francis said.

“Many cases are forms of slavery and confinement, resulting in physical and psychological suffering,” he said.

“We are all responsible for this.

“I appeal that every effort be made on the part of institutions to protect minors, by filling the economic and social gaps that underlie the distorted dynamic in which they are unfortunately involved.

“Children are the future of the human family: all of us are expected to promote their growth, health and tranquillity.”

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