New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops have announced the suspension of all celebrations of Mass until further notice in response to the strong Government restrictions on public gatherings to counter the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Various Masses are now being streamed online.
Bishop of Auckland Patrick Dunn, President of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, said the bishops met this morning to carefully consider what needed to be done with Mass and other public liturgical gatherings.
“We decided that all Masses must cease until further notice,” said Bishop Dunn. “The bishops are acutely aware of the seriousness of the measures taken by the Government and health authorities in recent days to try to stop Covid-19 from spreading in the New Zealand community.”
Bishop Dunn said churches have been told they may stay open for parishioners to visit for private prayer and reflection, but in very small numbers; those attending must follow Ministry of Health social-distancing guidelines and stay at least two metres apart.
“Funeral services may continue but they must be brief, with only small numbers of close family and friends allowed. Those attending must also follow the guidelines for social distancing,” said Bishop Dunn.
Baptisms, weddings and other public liturgical gatherings already planned will be allowed to proceed, but again, only with very small numbers of close family and friends present, and following the social-distancing guidelines. Similar services not already scheduled must be postponed.
“While some of our parishioners, priests and lay Mass helpers will be disappointed by this announcement, others will welcome it, because of the growing community concern about the pandemic and the need particularly to protect those most vulnerable,” said Bishop Dunn.
“This also follows similar moves by Catholic bishops in many other countries. Pope Francis is himself setting the international Church example by not celebrating public Masses, instead live-streaming his daily private Mass in the Vatican. The New Zealand Church is providing live-streaming here.”
“The primary concern of the Church is the welfare of the public and the safety of all our parishioners, clergy, families, friends, staff and visitors," said Bishop Dunn.
“We have again today emphasised to all parishioners the importance of good practices of hygiene, including regular washing of hands, covering coughs and sneezes with elbows not hands, staying at home if sick, and keeping a reasonable distance from other people when in public.”
• The Bishops have written a Pastoral Letter for parishioners on this issue, which can be read here in PDF format and read here on a web page.
• New Zealand online Mass links are here.