24 June 2020

Directives for Churches and Chapels within the Diocese of Geraldton
Phase 4 of Western Australia’s COVID 19 Roadmap from
The Most Rev Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton 

Dear Fathers, Pastoral Associates, School Principals and Directors Agencies

On Saturday, 27 June 2020, Western Australia will commence Phase 4 of the Western Australian Government’s COVID-19 roadmap. Under Phase 4, Western Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed even further, as Western Australia’s roadmap is updated to complete the removal of all restrictions. The WA roadmap has been developed in conjunction with the National Cabinet principles and is based on the best health advice for WA.  The current health advice is that we can cautiously continue to reopen or increase capacity of certain venues and increase indoor and outdoor gatherings while continuing to practise physical distancing and good personal hygiene. The WA COVID-19 roadmap can be accessed at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap#phase4

It is incumbent upon each of us to continue to exercise responsibility in keeping infection rates low and demonstrating diligent citizenship as well as Christian concern and charity.

Today, I recommit the Diocese of Geraldton to the support of, and compliance with, government directives and associated public health advice. The Western Australian and Federal Governments continue to issue ongoing public health advice in relation to COVID-19. The Diocese of Geraldton continues to be guided by this advice through our ongoing commitment to monitoring any threat posed by COVID–19 to Catholic communities across our Diocese.

I write to share with you a revised series of directives which come into effect across the Diocese of Geraldton commencing Saturday, 27 June 2020. The website of the Diocese of Geraldton has a dedicated COVID-19 web page on which all statements from the Diocese of Geraldton can be found. You can access this page at: https://www.geraldtondiocese.org.au/diocese/covid2

The following directives apply to the clergy, religious and the lay faithful of the Diocese of Geraldton and commence on Saturday, 27 June 2020: 

    • Churches and chapels are permitted to open with capacity limits determined by the two (2) square metres per person rule, excluding the people required to conduct the service.
    • There is to be two (2) square metres of floor space per person with each person practicing physical distancing by keeping 1.5 metres from persons of other households.
    • Additionally, to remain open during Phase 4 churches and chapels need to:
      • maintain a minimum of two (2) square metres per person
      • maintain hygiene and frequent cleaning
    • Latest information and advice, including health support measures and restrictions can be found at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and- cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap#phase4
    • Latest frequently asked questions relevant to Religious practices can be found at: https://www.wa.gov.au/government/publications/phase-4-easing-of-restrictions- frequently-asked-questions#religious_practices
    • Western Australia’s COVID Safety Guidelines for Phase 4 are being updated and will be available online before the Phase 4 starting date of Saturday, 27 June 2020 at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19- coronavirus-business-and-industry-advice#covid-safety-plans
    • COVID Safety Plans: Churches and chapels must ensure that their COVID Safety Plan is available for inspection by authorised officers.
      • Each church and chapel must complete a COVID Safety Plan for each church or chapel prior to reopening.
      • If your parish has multiple churches/premises, you must prepare a COVID Safety Plan for each church/premise.
      • Churches and chapels that opened during Phase 3, or which will reopen in Phase 4, should review the new guidelines and update their COVID Safety Plans where applicable.
      • If a church or chapel’s capacity is increased during Phase 4 this should be reflected on an updated COVID Safety Plan certificate.
      • Each church and chapel must display a COVID Safety Plan certificate at an entry point to the church or chapel.
    • Visitor Registers: Churches and chapels are no longer required to keep an attendance register as part of their COVID Safety Plans.
      • Churches and chapels that kept attendance registers previously are required to keep the information in the register until twenty-eight (28) days after the State of Emergency has been lifted.
    • Seating in the Church: Physical distancing of one (1) person per two (2) square metres must be observed inside the church or chapel. Available seating must be clearly marked with signage to assist in maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres between people of different households.
    • Hand sanitizers are to be available at each entrance to every church and chapel.
    • Clear guidelines must be put in place to direct people on how to enter and exit the church or chapel to ensure that this is done systematically to ensure that appropriate physical distancing is observed.
    • Holy Water fonts/stoups in all churches and chapels are to remain empty.
    • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rails, kneelers, doors, doorknobs, microphones, sacristies, toilets/bathrooms and all other communal areas are to be cleaned, wiped down and sanitised regularly.
    • Parish newsletters or bulletins should not be re-used. Sufficient copies should be made to ensure that people get copies, but then they must either take them home or dispose of them.
    • Hymnals or shared copies of texts are not to be used.
    • Persons who feel unwell, who have flu/respiratory symptoms, elevated body temperatures or who have been in contact in the previous fourteen (14) days with persons suspected to have, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are not permitted to enter churches or chapels.   

Masses

Parishes are to put in place procedures to ensure that numbers of attendees at all Masses conform to the directives of the Western Australian Government. The faithful continue to be dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

    • Allocated seating for each member of the congregation is to be clearly indicated through the use of signage.
    • In view of the now long-standing practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand, all Catholics receiving Holy Communion at Masses celebrated in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite are very strongly encouraged, out of concern for the health of others including the celebrant and other ministers, to refrain from receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.
    • Offertory processions and Gospel processions are to be omitted.
    • The Sign of Peace is to be omitted.
    • Collections are not to be taken up during the Mass. Churches and chapels can install boxes or containers for offerings at the entrance to the church or wherever they decide to be appropriate.
    • The Precious Blood is not to be shared from the chalice at any Masses and is reserved to the celebrant(s) only. The celebrant and concelebrants at concelebrated Masses are to receive from the chalice by intinction.
    • All priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are to wash their hands in soap and water or are to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser both immediately before and immediately after the distribution of Holy Communion.
    • A physical distance of 1.5 metres between people in the Communion Procession is to be observed. Churches and chapels may wish to dedicate ushers to facilitate the movement of people at the time Communion is distributed.
    • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rail and kneelers are to be wiped down and sanitised regularly.
    • The pulpit, lectern, credence table, ministers’ seats and anything handled by multiple people is to be wiped down and sanitised regularly.
    • Church ushers may need to remind parishioners and the faithful to maintain social distancing when they are entering or exiting a church or chapel for Mass or in the Communion Procession.
    • There should be two (2) square metres of floor space per person with each person practicing physical distancing by keeping 1.5 metres from persons of other households.

Weddings

    • Churches and chapels are permitted to celebrate weddings.
    • There must be two (2) square metres of floor space per person with each person practicing physical distancing by keeping 1.5 metres from persons of other households.
Funerals
    • Churches and chapels are permitted to celebrate funerals.
    • There should be two (2) square metres of floor space per person with each person practicing physical distancing by keeping 1.5 metres from persons of other households.  
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (for individuals)
    • Priests will continue to respond to appropriate requests to anoint people and will continue to celebrate the sacrament on an individual basis.
    • Upon request, and with strict compliance with restrictions in place within nursing homes, aged-care facilities and hospitals, priests will continue to minister the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
    • A cotton wool ball is to be used for the anointing and disposed of afterwards.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
    • The communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick is now permitted
    • Individual cotton wool balls are to be used for each anointing and disposed of afterwards.
    • There should be two (2) square metres of floor space per person with each person practicing physical distancing by keeping 1.5 metres.

Resource

A variety of resources continue to be offered by the Diocese of Geraldton on the dedicated COVID-19 webpage https://www.geraldtondiocese.org.au/diocese/covid2

The Western Australian Governments COVID-19 Roadmap

Current information on the measures being taken to protect the Western Australian community in order to minimise the potential impacts of COVID-19 in WA can be found at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19- coronavirus-wa-roadmap#phase4

The Western Australian Government has indicated that Phase 5 of the COVID roadmap will commence on Saturday, 18 July 2020. These changes will provide additional scope for a revision of the directives which have been applied to the Diocese of Geraldton. Subsequent guidelines relevant to the Diocese of Geraldton will be issued accordingly to reflect the Western Australia Government’s implementation of Phase 5 on Saturday, 18 July 2020.

Yours sincerely in Christ

Most Rev. Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton



3 June 2020

Dear Members of the Diocesan Family,

The Western Australian Government is now implementing the Covid-19 Roadmap to recovery from this virus. Presently we are in Phase 2.

From midnight on Friday, the 5th of June, we will be moving into Phase 3 of the roadmap. This is an exciting time for our community and for our Catholic community It will mean being able to open all our churches this coming weekend for Sunday Mass due to the allowed attendees inside the church increasing from 20 to 100.

I have been delighted with your support and commitment given to the Government directives and public health advice. This unity has kept us all safe as a community in Western Australia and around Australia.

However, I know it has been very difficult for you to not be able to attend the Sunday Mass within their parish church and school community. This was the same experience, Catholics had 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu.

So, I thank you for your faith and trust that these measures have enabled us to stay safe and well.

As we now move into Phase 3, it is important we continue to follow all the protocols required to ensure that we, as a Catholic community, are in sync with our wider community of W.A. keeping us safe and well. I further encourage you to download the Covid Safe App enabling our community to protect itself against any spread of this virus.

There is still the important requirement of social distancing of 1.5 metres between people. There is an important change from the 4 square metre rule now becoming the 2 square metre rule.

Remember if you are unwell, FEEL unwell, have flu and respiratory symptoms, elevated body temperatures, or who has been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed, or suspected, with Covid-19 to not enter any Church building, Diocesan or School premises.

Fr Robert Cross will send out some more information on some of the requirements that will be required in Phase 3 for us to adhere to especially the provision of the COVID Safety Plan for Phase 3. What I wrote in my May directive is still in place for Phase 3. I encourage you to reread that directive.

Most importantly, the requirement to attend Mass on Sunday is still voluntary as many of you, for a variety of health reasons, and other personal reasons, might find it difficult to attend Mass at this stage.

Any Liturgy that is celebrated within the church, including Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals can have up to 100 participants or attendees, plus those who lead or organize those Liturgies or Mass.

Everyone who will attend Sunday Mass or Liturgies will be required to provide their contact details as a protective health measure. I ask you to adhere to the directions of where to sit and move in the church during the Sunday Mass. This will reduce close contact with each other. It might seem strange to have no community singing except for Cantors but this is a requirement for Phase 2 and 3.

Five months ago, we could not have imagined we would be in this situation. However, with our care and concern for each other, we have done very well keeping ourselves safe and well during this Pandemic which is still affecting many countries in the world very severely.

Once again, this is great news that our churches are reopening this coming weekend for Sunday Mass. I encourage you again to read my 15th of May Directive concerning Phase 2 of Western Australia’s Covid Roadmap. This outlines all the information required for the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments within the church. What has changed in Phase 3 is that the number has increased to 100 inside and 300 outside, with all the same requirements as in Phase 2.

Thank you again for your commitment to keeping our community safe and well.

I wish you every blessing.

Yours sincerely

The Most Rev. Michael H. Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton


15 May 2020

Directives for Churches and Chapels within the
Catholic Diocese of Geraldton Phase 2 of Western Australia’s COVID Roadmap from
The Most Rev Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Western Australian Government has implemented the COVID-19 Roadmap. The WA COVID-19 Roadmap is a four-phase roadmap which has been developed in conjunction with the National Cabinet principles (https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-08may20 - Summary) and is based on relevant public health advice for Western Australia. On Monday 18 May 2020, Western Australia will commence Phase 2 of the roadmap. The WA COVID-19 roadmap can be access at https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap

I commit the Diocese of Geraldton to the support of, and compliance with, government directives and associated public health advice. The Western Australian and Federal Governments continue to issue ongoing public health advice in relation to COVID–19.   The Diocese of Geraldton continues to be guided by this advice through our ongoing commitment to monitoring any threat posed by COVID–19 to Catholic communities across our Archdiocese. Clergy and the faithful are encouraged to download the CovidSafe App and observe the latest public health advice.

I write to share with you a revised series of directives which come into effect across the Diocese of Geraldton commencing Monday 18 May 2020. The website of the Diocese of Geraldton has a dedicated COVID-19 web page on which all statements from the Diocese of Geraldton can be found. You can access this page at: https://www.geraldtondiocese.org.au/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/759-2020-03-19-bishop-s-pastoral-letter-in-the-time-of-pandemic

The following directives apply to the clergy, religious and the lay faithful of the Diocese of Geraldton and commence on Monday 18 May 2020: 

  • Churches are permitted to open in a modified way with a limit of twenty (20) attendees present within the church at any one time for private prayer, Adoration and Confessions. Parishioners need to be notified of the times the church is open outside of which the church is to closed.
  • Priests (or their nominated delegate) must ensure that the name and contact details of every person who enters a church for any reason is recorded as per government directives. Churches must retain these records. No record is to be made of the reason why the person has attended the church.
  • Indoor religious services are permitted with a limit of twenty (20) attendees in the congregation. An additional ten (10) people who are required to conduct the religious service or to broadcast the service may be present. Additional participants are to be restricted to as few as possible. Social distancing of four (4) square metres must be observed with a physical distance of 1.5 meters between people.
  • Persons who feel unwell, who have flu/respiratory symptoms, elevated body temperatures or who have been in contact in the previous fourteen (14) days with persons suspected to have, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are not permitted to enter churches.
  • Seating in the Church: Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed inside the church. Available seating must be clearly marked with signage to assist in maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 meters between people.
  • Hand sanitizers to be available at each entrance to any church or chapel.
  • Clear guidelines must be put in place to direct people on how to enter and exit the church to ensure that this is done systematically to ensure that appropriate social distancing is observed.
  • Holy Water fonts/stoups in all churches and chapels are to remain empty.
  • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rails, kneelers, doors, doorknobs, microphones, sacristies, toilets/bathrooms and all other communal areas are to be wiped down and sanitised after each liturgical celebration.
  • Parish newsletters or bulletins should not be re-used. Sufficient copies should be made to ensure that people get copies, but then they must either take them home or dispose of them.
  • Hymnals or shared copies of texts are not to be used.
  • Parish Priests and Pastoral Leaders in consultation with their communities of worship, are to put in place regulations for churches and chapels (including Adoration Chapels) to ensure that the number of people present in the church or chapel conforms to government regulated numbers at all times.

Celebration of the Sacraments of the Church

The celebration of First Reconciliation (school-aged children), First Holy Communion (school-aged children) and Confirmation (school-aged children and others) remains temporarily suspended, except for those in danger of death.

Baptism

  • Baptism may be celebrated with a limit of twenty (20) attendees present within the church. Up to an additional ten (10) people who are required to conduct the baptism or to broadcast the baptism may be present.
  • Fresh baptismal water must be used for each candidate.
  • Full immersion baptism is discouraged unless the water in the baptismal pool is drained between candidates. The baptismal pool must subsequently be cleaned and disinfected after each full immersion.
  • For the anointing with Chrism at baptism, the celebrant should use cotton balls with a separate one for each candidate. These cotton balls must disposed of appropriately after the celebration.
  • The contact details (name, phone number, address and/or email address) of each person entering the church for Baptism must be recorded and retained. No record should be kept of the reason for the person’s presence in the church.
  • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
  • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

Confessions

  • Priests can provide opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, according to the First Rite. No Second Rite is to be celebrated.
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation is to occur in a well-ventilated space and with appropriate social distancing being maintained at all times, including the absolution. The Sacrament can be celebrated in the sanctuary but provision for anonymity should be made.
  • The contact details (name, phone number, address and/or email address) of each person entering the church for Confession must be recorded and retained. No record should be kept of the reason for the person’s presence in the church.
  • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
  • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

Masses

Priests must exercise judgement in deciding whether it is yet practicable to conduct public Masses. In-light of the restricted numbers of attendees, 20 people, under Phase 2 of the WA Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap, it may be necessary for Parish Priests to implement revised weekday and weekend Mass timetables. Parishes are to put in place procedures to ensure that numbers of attendees at all Masses conform to the directives of the Western Australian Government. In some parishes of the diocese, the Sunday Mass attendance exceeds 100 which would mean 5 Masses which is impractical. The faithful continue to be dispensed of their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

      • Allocated seating for each member of the congregation is to be clearly indicated through the use of signage.
      • As in my earlier directive in March, all Communicants will continue to receive Holy Communion in the hand until the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
      • Offertory gifts are to be in closed vessels or, where this is not possible, vessels should be appropriately covered.
      • Offertory processions and Gospel processions are to be omitted.
      • The Sign of Peace is to be omitted or given without physical contact.
      • Collections are not to be taken up during the Mass. Churches can install boxes or containers for offerings at the entrance to the church or wherever they decide to be appropriate.
      • All sacred vessels are to be thoroughly washed before and after each Mass. 
      • The Precious Blood is not to be shared from the chalice at any Masses and is reserved to the celebrant(s) only. The celebrant and concelebrants are to receive from the chalice by intinction.
      • All priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are to wash their hands in soap and water or are to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser both immediately before and immediately after the distribution of Holy Communion.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 meters between people in the Communion Procession is to be observed. Churches may wish to dedicate ushers to facilitate the movement of people at the time Communion is distributed.
      • Pews, seats, seatbacks, top rail and kneelers are to be wiped down and sanitised after each Mass.
      • The pulpit, lectern, credence table, ministers’ seats – and anything handled by multiple people is to be wiped down and sanitised after each Mass.
      • Church ushers may need to remind parishioners and the faithful to maintain social distancing when they are entering or leaving a church for Mass.
      • Those who wish to wear masks when attending Mass are encouraged to do so.
      • If live music is used it is recommended that there be only one musician and one cantor.
      • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 meters per person must be observed.

Confirmations

      • The celebration of Confirmation is temporarily postponed, except in danger of death or when the baptism of an adult is celebrated.

Weddings

      • The celebration of each wedding must adhere to the Phase 2 of the Western Australian Government’s restriction of twenty (20) attendees at indoor weddings, or up to thirty (30) attendees at outdoor weddings.
      • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.
      • A physical distance of 1.5 metres per person must be observed.

 Funerals

      • Up to twenty (20) attendees can be present at an indoor funeral or up to thirty (30) attendees for an outdoor funeral, not including the person/s necessary to conduct the service e.g. celebrant, funeral director (unless the funeral is in a small indoor or outdoor venue and impacted by prohibited gathering rules which require at least 4 square metres per person) unless an exemption is approved.

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (for individuals)

      • ‘Those who have the care of souls and those who are close to the sick are to see to it that the sick are consoled by the sacrament of anointing at the appropriate time’ (Canon 1001).
      • Priests will continue to respond to appropriate requests to anoint people and will continue to celebrate the sacrament on an individual basis.
      • Upon request, and with strict compliance with restrictions in place within nursing homes, aged-care facilities and hospitals, priests will continue to minister the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
      • Please be aware that ‘in case of necessity ... it is sufficient that a single anointing be given on the forehead or, because of the particular condition of the sick person, on another suitable part of the body, while the whole sacramental form is said.’

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (for two or more people)

      • The communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick (two or more people receiving the sacrament consecutively in a single celebration) is to be temporarily suspended.  

Resources

A variety of resources continue to be offered by the Diocese of Geraldton on the dedicated COVID-19 webpage, as shown above.

The Western Australian Governments four-phase COVID-19 Roadmap

Current information on the measures being taken to protect the Western Australian community in order to minimise the potential impacts of COVID-19 in WA can be found at: https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap

It is anticipated that the Western Australian Government will progress from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and Phase 4 in the coming weeks and months. These changes will provide additional scope for a revision of the directives which have been applied to the Diocese of Geraldton. Subsequent guidelines relevant to the Diocese of Geraldton will be issued accordingly to reflect the Western Australia Government’s implementation of Phase 3 and Phase 4. 

It is incumbent on each of us to exercise responsibility in keeping infection rates low and demonstrating diligent citizenship as well as Christian concern and charity.

I assure you of my continued prayers and practical support as together we as an Archdiocese seek to continue to witness and proclaim our Christ-centred hope within a global context that is collectively seeking to respond to the uncertainty and reality of COVID-19. 


Yours sincerely in Christ

Most Rev Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton

 

Directives for Churches and Chapels within the
Catholic Diocese of Geraldton Phase 2 of Western Australia’s COVID Roadmap.
Notice to be placed on Church/Chapel doors and parish websites

From Monday 18 May 2020 in Western Australia:

  • Churches are permitted to open in a modified way with a limit of twenty (20) people present within the Church at any one time for private prayer, Adoration and Confessions.
  • Indoor religious services are permitted with a limit of twenty (20) people in the congregation. An additional ten (10) people who are required to conduct the religious service or to broadcast the service may be present. These additional participants are to be restricted to as few as possible.
  • Priests (or their nominated delegate) must ensure that the name and contact details of every person who enters a church for any reason is recorded as per government directives. Churches must retain these records. No record is to be made of the reason why the person has attended the church.  

Weddings

  • The celebration of each wedding must adhere to the Phase 2 of the Western Australian Government’s restriction of twenty (20) attendees at indoor weddings, or up to thirty (30) attendees at outdoor weddings.
  • Social distancing of one (1) person per four (4) square metres must be observed.

 Funerals

  • Up to twenty (20) attendees can be present at an indoor funeral or up to thirty (30) attendees for an outdoor funeral, not including the person/s necessary to conduct the service e.g. celebrant, funeral director (unless the funeral is in a small indoor or outdoor venue and impacted by prohibited gathering rules which require at least 4 square metres per person) unless an exemption is approved.
  • Persons who feel unwell, who have flu/respiratory symptoms, elevated body temperatures or who have been in contact with persons suspected to have, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are not permitted to enter churches.
  • Hand sanitizers to be available at each entrance to any church or chapel.

The Western Australian Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap anticipates further relaxations of restrictions in the coming weeks and months with the implementation of Phase 3 and Phase 4.Further special directives have been issued by Bishop Michael Morrissey in relation to Baptisms, Confessions, Masses, Worship and COVID safe practices for churches and chapels. These directives are available online on the Catholic Diocese of Geraldton COVID-19 webpage: https://www.geraldtondiocese.org.au/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/759-bishop-s-pastoral-letter

Priests must exercise judgement in deciding whether it is yet practicable to conduct public Masses. In-light of the restricted numbers of attendees under Phase 2 of the WA Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap, it may be necessary for Parish Priests to implement revised weekday and weekend Mass timetables. In parishes where the number of Masses available (both weekday and weekend) may be increased, inevitably, the majority of the faithful will still not be able to attend. The faithful continue to be dispensed of their obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Parishes are encouraged to continue live streaming Masses. 

Pastoral letter to the Priests, Pastoral Leaders and People of the Diocese of Geraldton
'In the time of Pandemic'
19 March 2020

This time last year I could never have imagined myself, as Bishop of Geraldton, contemplating cancelling Public Mass throughout our vast Diocese. In the past, as Parish Priest of Karratha, I remember Sunday Mass being cancelled because of a Red Alert at an approaching cyclone: an experience many of you also had this year.

What we are facing at this time is a virus, COVID-19. It has crossed all our borders, cultures, religions and affected everyone’s life. This virus has changed the way we do things. This has happened to me and many others coming back from overseas. My recent visit to India went very well meeting once again Fr Alby George, his family and Bishop. Many of you would remember Fr Alby who served in our Diocese recently. While in India I also finally meet the Sisters who have been nominated by their Superior to continue the wonderful ministry begun by the Daughter of Charity in Port and South Hedland. I am now very happy to comply with the Government’s requirement to quarantine myself until Tuesday, 31 March. Many of you are doing the same to help maximise our level of protection here in Australia. This is what we do as a community looking out for each other.

This time can be very unsettling and often raises in us a sense of panic and fear. My Directive applies to myself and everyone in the Diocese of Geraldton, even if a number of our communities are very small. Some though might think it unnecessary for everyone to put into practise these measures. My Directive is a call to each one of us to care and support each other and our wider communities, whether we are in Port Hedland, Mt Magnet, Dongara or Geraldton through all the Government’s measures.

Many examples of support are happening in and around our community and I give thanks for that. As a Catholic People, our greatest gift to the community is hope, and focussing on what matters most in our lives: families, friends, senior citizens and Aboriginal People.

Many bishops have referred to this time as like being on a retreat, where all those things that distracted us from what matters most in our lives, are put to one side. I would like to offer to you a passage of Scripture for reflection to guide you through these days.

This passage from St Paul’s Letter to the Roman Christians 8: 28-39 has always given me great hope when at times life, and decisions to be made, has not been easy or clear for myself. We are not alone; our God is even closer to us now in these difficult times.

“For I am certain of this: that neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8 38-39)

The Roman Christians lived in very uncertain times where their very lives were under constant threat. St Paul wrote these words of hope to strengthen the community and ensure them that Jesus will never abandon them, nor us. He will be there with our fears and concerns and for our community.

When I was Parish Priest of Karratha it was the practice of the Parish Community to give a thank you card for parishioners who were leaving. On the card were these words from Romans 8:28, “We know that by turning everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love him.” In the midst of this crisis, there is so much good.

I give thanks for all we are doing to care for each other. For the doctors, nurses and medical staff who are caring for those who are sick. For those who are reaching out and caring for those families who have already lost loved ones to the virus. Their work and ministry is good and I give thanks and praise for their tireless commitment and generosity.

I pray too for those who are working on understanding this virus so as to help save lives and help restore our communities to be a safer place to live and work. I pray also for our Leaders in local church communities and civil community, that their leadership lead us all through to a better place once this crisis is over.

One of the prayers I pray quite often in my chapel, and will pray often over these coming months comes from St Theresa of Avila,

Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, he who has God nothing lacks: God alone suffices. 

Our Priests will be offering the Mass for you every day and will remember your families and friends, deepening that spiritual connection which comes from our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Recently there was this beautiful vision of Pope Francis walking through the deserted streets of Rome to pray at the image of our Lady of Health. We will do the same and pray for each other.

I entrust you all in our Diocese, Australia and around the world to the intercession of our Lady, Help of Christians, of Lourdes and Good Health.

God bless you all.



Bishop Michael Morrissey
Bishop of Geraldton