Catholics may look forward to resuming public Masses on May 29, following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that the restriction on the number of people allowed at a public gathering is increased from 10 to 100 in Covid-19 alert level 2.
NZCBC secretary Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe said Mass will be restricted to 100 people with parishes deciding how this will be held.
“Each parish will decide what is manageable and safe for their community including whether any particular weekday or Sunday Mass resumes,” Bishop Lowe said in a statement released last night.
He added that “not all parishioners will be able to attend Mass because of the restrictions of numbers”.
Bishop Lowe said dispensation of attendance at Sunday Mass continues for those who cannot attend due to “health reasons, concerns or fears”.
The bishop said the guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion and other health practices during the pandemic will remain in place.
The guidelines released by the National Liturgy Office include:
- At the Sign of Peace, people should avoid shaking hands or other contact with one another, and instead smile, nod or bow to one another.
- Holy Communion is not to be distributed from the chalice.
- Communion is only to be distributed in the hand, not on the tongue.
- Holy water is to be removed from stoups and containers at the church door.
- Priests should not touch children’s heads when blessing them and then continue to distribute Communion.
Bishop Lowe said the bishops will issue a pastoral letter today on the matter.
In the meantime, he said livestreamed Masses will continue.
On May 22, the bishops issued a strongly- worded letter to the Prime Minister urging her to raise the limits on numbers allowed at religious services.
Their letter followed the New Zealand Police issuing guidelines last week saying religious services are allowed under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 as long as people sit in multiple groups of 10; while the Ministry of Health issued a statement repeating that no more than 10 people can attend such a service.
On Friday last week, NZ Catholic Bishops Conference executive officer Siobhan Dilly said that the bishops were carefully studying the Police guidelines, which stated religious services could be held, as long as people attending were seated in groups of no more than 10; each group is 2m apart from the others; and that a register is kept of those attending, for contract-tracing purposes.