Masses are suspended due to coronavirus, but the Episcopal conference has made available digital resources useful for not “cutting the bridges” and ensuring maximum pastoral proximity to the faithful. “Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new measures on March 18 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include the limitation of ‘non-essential’ gatherings with more than 100 participants if held indoors, or 500 participants if held outdoors. Based on these guidelines, religious services, including Mass, are considered ‘non-essential’. Catholic Bishops are following all the advice of the Department of Health to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Some Bishops have taken the difficult decision to suspend public Masses and all the faithful are dispensed from the obligation to physically attend Mass on Sundays. Others have issued new guidelines that allow them to continue with the celebrations, but with the access restrictions imposed by the government”. This is reported in a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the Episcopal Conference of the Australian bishops, concerning security measures for the containment of the Coronavirus.
In the dioceses where celebrations are suspended, the faithful will be able to count on virtual spiritual support, thanks to a series of resources made available on the website of the Episcopal Conference “to support the life of prayer and to continue to live Sunday as a day when the encounter with God is the most important activity”. The note also underlines that many Catholic organizations have supported the initiative, giving access to online material that is usually only available by subscription.
Australia has exceeded a thousand infections: in an initial phase, in February, the Australian outbreak had been shut down with a forced quarantine on Christmas Island for anyone returning from China. The increase in cases in recent days has led the government to arm itself and announce the closure of borders to non-residents and non-citizens. The decision, according to what premier Morrison said, was made necessary because “about 80 percent of Australian cases result from either people who contracted the virus abroad or from those who had direct contact with people who returned from other countries”.