Can I visit a church for private prayer?
No. The new Commonwealth and State restrictions on public places means all churches are closed until further notice.
Where can I watch Mass now that churches are closed?
St Mary’s Cathedral will livestream the 10:30am Solemn Mass every Sunday while the restrictions continue as well as various other services throughout the week. Check the website for regular updates. https://www.stmaryscathedral.org.au/ Mass For You at Home is broadcast on Channel 10 each Sunday from 6am. There are several live-streaming services for daily Mass both locally and from around the English-speaking world.
Bishops and priests can still say Mass privately, and the NSW government has confirmed they may use their (closed) cathedral or parish church for that purpose and livestream the service.
Can private Masses and religious gatherings occur outside churches?
Yes. Private Masses, prayer meetings and other religious activities “for very small groups” in people’s homes seem permissible subject to physical distancing, hygiene and related directives being observed.
Sunday observance and alternative devotions.
All but priests are dispensed from attending Sunday Mass, you can keep Sunday holy by setting aside some time for prayer at home, reading the Scriptures of the day, watching Mass on television or online and asking God for the graces you would normally receive in Holy Communion. Priests should celebrate daily Mass privately and offer it on behalf of those who cannot attend and for the whole nation.
Can a baptism be performed?
All baptisms should be postponed for at least six months where they prudently can be. If there is a risk of death, the child should be baptised by a priest or if not available by a lay person.
What about weddings?
Weddings are also permitted but may only be celebrated with five people – the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses – in attendance at the church and subject to physical distancing and hygiene directives. The church should be closed once the limited participants have been admitted. Larger celebrations after the public emergency has passed (ie on the first anniversary) can be performed. However, now that wedding reception venues are closed, most weddings are being postponed for at least six months.
Am I still able to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent?
The Second and Third Rites of Reconciliation are religious services and are not permitted. Creative responses such as drive-by Confessions or confessionals set up outdoors would be subject to the caveats already noted regarding not drawing crowds, hygiene etc. Please be advised on the continuing importance of examination of conscience and making an act of contrition during this time.
What if a loved one dies? Can I still have a funeral Mass?
Yes. Funerals may now only be celebrated with a limit of 10 people in attendance at the church and subject to physical distancing, hygiene etc. The church should be closed once the limited participants have been admitted. Grieving families could be promised a larger celebration after the public emergency has passed.
How about the Anointing of the Sick?
Pastoral care of the sick, frail and elderly should as far as possible be undertaken by clergy. Our priests must follow the guidance of health care facilities, some of which may only allow their own chaplains to minister to those with COVID-19 since they receive intensive training regarding safety protocols. When anointing the sick, priests have been given permission to lay on hands above rather than upon the head to anoint and use a cotton wool ball, cotton bud or a protective glove which can be disposed of after a single use.
What if my child is scheduled to receive First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation during this time?
Preparation for and celebration of First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation for children should be postponed until the pandemic is over.
How should Catholics respond to the Coronavirus?
Prayer! Providentially, we are in the Lenten season – a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. God is giving us this time to journey with Jesus on his way to the Cross.