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Northern Territory churches open alongside pubs, bars and restaurants as Top End leads the way with no new cases

Cheerful: Northern Territory priest Fr Tom English.

IN true Northern Territory spirit, churches are reopening today, alongside pubs, bars and restaurants, as the Top End becomes the first Australian jurisdiction to greatly relax COVID-19 restrictions.

“Good news brothers and sisters, not only are the pubs opening from Friday the 15th, but the churches also,” Our Lady Help of Christians parish priest Fr Tom English, announced to his flock via social media.

Masses will be back in Northern Territory churches from tonight.

“Okay, that’s about it, have a happy day,” Fr English, originally from Malanda in North Queensland said, signing off with a big smile and a thumbs up to parishioners.

Many businesses are opening at noon today to take advantage of stage two of the NT Government’s plan to return to normal.

The Northern Territory is gearing up for an election on August 22, and last week the NT Chief Minister announced a “Roadmap to a new normal” holding his press conference at Darwin’s Carlton United brewery, backed by pallets of beers.

Mr Gunner said “a keg convoy (was) rolling up the Stuart Highway” in time for the second stage of eased restrictions in the Northern Territory that begins today.

“175,000 litres of the good stuff,” Mr Gunner said.

“But what excites me most are the jobs that are coming back.”

However the  Diocese of Darwin covers the entire Northern Territory and will continue streaming Mass for Catholics unable to attend church, including those living in remote indigenous communities that remain under tight access security.

Under Commonwealth legislation, those communities, generally controlled by indigenous land councils, are Designated Biosecurity Areas and remain only accessible to residents and essential workers until at least June 18.

On May 15, Catholic bishops, holding an annual plenary meeting online, called for Catholics across Australia to have patience in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.

“This has been a real deprivation, and the bishops understand not only your anxiety about the virus and shutdown but more especially your deep desire to return to the sacraments and to resume public worship,” members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said.

“There is a real hunger in this. It is something we all feel, and we long for the time when our hunger will be satisfied as together we return to the feast of the Lord.

“In the hope born of faith we look forward to the time when the crisis will pass and we will be able to resume fully the Church’s worship and mission, even in a landscape which may be quite changed.

“In the meantime, we are talking with the states and the federal government about the reopening of churches and the gradual relaxation of restrictions.

“We will work with governments and local authorities at each stage of any resumption of Church life.”

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