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

Vision Statement

We are:

* a welcoming community which reaches out to all
* celebrating Christ's presence
* joyfully living out our Christian calling across distance and diversity

This vision states that as a Diocese, we aim to be a welcoming, missionary, centred on Christ, and each striving to live one's particular vocation. It is in living out our calling that we praise God, follow Christ, influence society and achieve the goal of eternal life won for us by Christ. In the parishes we have encouraged people to measure whatever they do against this Diocesan vision.

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Catholic Diocese
of GERALDTON
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7 Maitland Street
PO Box 46
Geraldton WA 6531

Chancery Ph: +61 8 9921 3221

Cathedral Parish Ph: +61 8 9964 1608 (diverts a/hrs)