This page seeks to provide guidance to Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta, information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the participation of the faithful in the life of the Church during this pandemic. During these unprecedented times, many Catholics will be unable to attend Mass.
The Diocese of Parramatta encourages you to continue your life of prayer and participate in the Life of the church. We hope you will find benefit from the resources below.
For our community’s safety, we highly recommend wearing a mask to Mass
Due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) churches, religious gatherings and places of worship are subject to social distancing requirements and a 4 square metre rule from 2 January 2021. Attendance is capped based on the 4 square metre rule and a maximum number of 100 people at any indoor venue.
Your parish will also have other measures in place as part of their COVID-19 Safety plan.
Catholics from the Diocese of Parramatta are dispensed from their Sunday Mass obligation until further notice (Canon 1247, Canons 85 and 87, and Catechism of the Catholic Church 2180-2188).
The maximum number of people at places of worship and religious services will be limited by the 4 square metre rule and up to a maximum capacity of 100 people.
This applies to all indoor settings including places of worship. If a place of public worship has separate buildings, the maximum number of people in each separate building is subject to the 4 square metre rule.
If there are separate buildings, each building should have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
Places of public worship in Greater Sydney, with more than one separate area available for worship, must ensure that a religious service, activity or event conducted in one separate area does not commence or end at the same time as another religious service, activity or event in another separate area in the place.
People attending a religious service will be required to provide their name and contact details when they enter so that they can be used for contact tracing.
Face masks will also be made mandatory at places of worship.
From Monday, 4 January 2021, non-compliance with wearing face masks will attract a $200 on-the-spot-fine for individuals.
Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.
Parish priests, priests and ministers of the Communion are strongly encouraged to wear masks when distributing Communion.
NSW Health advised for places of worship to please consider modifying religious services, where practical, such as Communion, to avoid direct contact with the hand and mouth.
If parishioners would like to receive Communion on the tongue, this is to be done only after everyone else have received Communion on the hand. Only the priest will distribute Communion on the tongue. The extraordinary ministers who usually assist with giving Communion to parishioners will only be doing so on the hand.
The parish priest will be extra careful in placing Communion on the tongue to ensure physical contact is not made. It is at the discretion of the priest celebrating Mass, conscious of the advice from NSW Public Health, as to whether or not he chooses to recommence Communion on the tongue.
While it is essential for Catholics, the obligation to attend can be dispensed, and the obligation has been dispensed at this time. This is stated in the Code of Canon Law which offers universal rulings for Catholics, and the Code has not changed since St John Paul II’s papacy. It states in canon 1247:
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. … If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2181, it further states:
The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.
If you are unable to be present at a celebration of the Eucharist, we encourage you to participate in other ways such as spending time in personal and family prayer, reflecting on and praying with the Scriptures (particularly the Mass readings), making a Stations of the Cross, praying the Rosary, making a spiritual communion (see below) and participating in Mass online (see more below). Further information about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and times of private prayer in churches will follow.
Catholics have long been encouraged to partake in the practice of making a “spiritual communion” if they are unable to receive the Eucharist for a particular reason (for instance – being homebound). Simply put, it is coming before God in prayer – expressing our deep desire to be united to Him despite the fact that we are unable to be united to Him in receiving the Eucharist.
This spiritual communion can be made in various ways. One common way of doing so involves spending a dedicated time of prayer and reflection on the Mass readings. The daily Mass readings can be viewed online here. Another popular way is by reciting the prayer written by St. Alphonsus Liguori below.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.
Despite our current limitations, we can still participate in the celebration of Mass online thanks to modern technology. Many dioceses around the world provide online streaming of Masses, including our own Diocese of Parramatta. Below are some links to online Masses. We also encourage you to think about how you might help those homebound and less tech-savvy to be able to access Mass online during this time.
It can be very spiritually and emotionally distressing for some people who have been taught to always participate in Mass.
You can offer assistance as follows:
Reassure them that the Catholic Church through the Pope and their Bishop is giving permission for them not to participate.
Spiritually speaking, God always seeks both our spiritual and physical wellbeing. Jesus performed many physical healings. As such, God cares for our physical health and wants to ensure we are safe through following the safety standards offered by health professionals, who again, God has blessed with intellect and expertise to assist us during this difficult time
Encourage them to perform a devotional practice during the time they will normally participate – such as watch Mass on TV or online, pray the rosary or engage with the Sunday prayers and readings through their missal. You can find online resources at http://universalis.com/mass.htm
Offer to check in or pray with them ensuring you are complying with the national health advice.
Pope Francis has stated that clergy be available to pastorally minister to people in this time of crisis.
Those who are gravely ill, either due to the virus, or some other malady should not in any circumstances be denied access to the sacraments.
In anointing people, the priest will wash their hands with an appropriate solution both before and after the anointing.
In the laying on of hands, it is recommended that contact is not made with the person’s head but the priest’s hands are held above the head of the ill. The same applies to the administration of Viaticum.
Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are now able to visit the housebound and those who are unable to attend a parish for Mass or Holy Communion.
These ministers will need to observe social distancing and ensure at least 1.5 metres is maintained between them and those in their care.
Ministers will also need to use hand sanitiser, prior to the distribution of Communion.
Only Communion on the hand is permitted at this time.
Weekend Marriage Preparation Courses run by the Diocese of Parramatta have been cancelled until further notice. Couples can still undertake marriage preparation by accessing the online course undertaken in their own home called SmartLoving online. Visit www.parracatholic.org/pmp to register, pay and then access the online course. The couple workbooks needed to accompany the course work will be posted to you for your use. If couples are not able to undertake the SmartLoving online course they are welcome to ring the Life, Marriage & Family Office on (02) 8838 3460 for further assistance.
Natural Fertility Services Diocese of Parramatta is still open. You can contact the office via email, telephone and video calls. Importantly for those wishing to become new clients can begin their instruction using Zoom. Contact Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org or 0440 427 605 via text for a call back.
: There are many organisations helping those at risk, and you can support them in various ways, through volunteering, organising a food drive or through financial support. To contact these organisations click here. For more information on services provided click here.