Wellington Cardinal John Dew suspended Masses and parish activities until Tuesday (August 18) while all churches are closed in Auckland as the region was placed under Alert Level 3 lockdown due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the community.
Cardinal Dew, in a pastoral letter, said churches have proven to be part of the spread of the virus overseas “and we don’t want that in New Zealand”.
“To be safe, I am suspending all Masses and parish activities which involve gathering until Tuesday 18 August,” he said.
“This means there will be no Masses this weekend, and the dispensation from Sunday obligation is in place. The dispensation also applies to the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a Holy Day of Obligation and falls on Saturday,” he said.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn suspended Masses until Friday (August 14).
“Gatherings of more than 10 people will not be allowed, so there will be no Masses or parish gatherings during these three days. We are not sure what this will mean for our weekend Masses as there is the possibility that this period of Level 3 restrictions could be extended if community tracing has not been successful,” he said.
“However, we are hopeful that things will return to normal after Friday, and that our weekend Masses will be resumed as usual.”
The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference earlier released a statement outlining the pastoral implications of the government’s announcement on Tuesday (August 11) night.
The statement said under Alert Level 3, all churches must close except for small private weddings and funerals of up to ten people with physical distancing and other public health measures in place.
Under Alert Level 2, religious gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 100 people. The decision as to whether Masses can continue under this restriction was left to dioceses and parishes.
“Not all parishioners will be able to attend Mass in many larger parishes. Others will not attend due to health reasons, concerns or fears. For these reasons, the dispensation of attendance at Sunday Mass will be in place,” the statement said.
“We know this is a challenging time for many people, the more so because this re-imposing of restrictions follows more than 100 days of national hope and gratitude for the absence of community transmission. Our thanks and prayers go to you all for your wonderful work and witness during this pandemic.”