The Catholic Weekly 29 March 2020 $2 The faithful can keep Sunday holy by setting aside some time for prayer ... reading the Scriptures of the day, watchingMass on televisionor online, and/or askingGod for ... graces theywouldnormally receive ...” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP IT CAME as no surprise, but it was still a heavy blow for Catholics when the country’s churches were ordered to close on 23 March. Archbishop Anthony Fish- er OP informed Catholics in a pastoral letter issued that day that it was with “a heavy heart” that he was ordering churches to be shut in accordance with state and federal government measures. Archbishop Fisher had at- tempted to keep churches open for as long as possible so that Catholics could continue to worship and in accordance with government distancing orders - but it was not to be. Yet while the blow was es- pecially hard for people who are - by definition - gathered around Christ in the Eucharist - in parishes across Sydney the focus quickly shifted to finding creative ways to con- nect the faith community and bring Christ to others. From livestreamed Masses and podcasts and video blogs, to marshalling volunteers to assist the elderly, sick and quarantined, Catholics every- where are determined to be a light to others amid the esca- lating medical and economic crisis. Public Masses had already been suspended in some dio- ceses from 18 March. In the Sydney archdiocese they continued last weekend under scrupulous adherence to the Federal government’s health and social distancing restrictions, including the 100 indoor and 500 outdoor restrictions. Many had hoped such arrangements could continue - but it wasn’t to be. Archbishop Fisher’s pas- toral letter specified that churches would be closed “even to private prayer”, while all indoor and outdoor Mass- es and communal devotions would be suspended until fur- ther notice. The move followed the 22 March announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morri- son that included places of worship alongside restau- rants, clubs, pubs, cinemas and other places of social gatherings to be closed as Stage 1 of the Government’s social distancing restrictions. Those measures were ex- tended even further on 24 March refelcting the serious- ness of the situation the na- tion faces. “As priests bid farewell to parishioners today there have been tears and bewil- derment,” Archbishop Fisher wrote. “Even as the Church coop- erates with public health au- thorities to ensure the safety of all, we will do our best to keep in touch and maintain (even increase) our prayer on behalf of all, our healthcare, education and welfare servic- es, and especially our pastoral care. “I truly believe this is the time for us to shine as a Church.” Along with the rest of the country’s Catholic bishops the archbishop echoed the pope’s assurance that all Catholics except for priests are dis- pensed from the Sunday Mass attendance. “The faithful can keep Sun- day holy by setting aside some time for prayer at home, read- ing the Scriptures of the day, watching Mass on television or online, and/or asking God for the graces they would nor- mally receive in Holy Com- munion,” he said. The archbishop said that the Church’s focus would now shift to helping people find ways to pray and nurture their faith from home. Funerals, baptisms and weddings are still possible though greatly curtailed, and even confessions, though these could be ‘drive-through confessions’ or held outdoors under the 2 square metre dis- tance rule could still be held. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 ARCHBISHOP’S PASTORAL P6 No more masses Archbishop’s reluctant decision to close churches tinged with hope that faith will still shine forth ¾ ¾ Marilyn Rodrigues SHORTLY AFTER morning Mass at St Charles Borromeo church in Ryde, parish priest Fr Greg Morgan FMVD rang the midday Angelus bell and closed its large wooden doors. It was 11.59 on 23 March, 2020. One minute later, all of the country’s churches were re- quired to shut down by law, the latest blow wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Scott Morri- son made the announcement late on 22 March tightening social distancing require- ments to include the closing of places of worship along with pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and indoor sporting venues. “This is devastating and it is heartbreaking,” Mr Morri- son said in an address to the House of Representatives in Canberra on 23 March, speak- ing of the small business own- ers who worried about keep- ing their livelihoods afloat and as long lines formed outside Centrelink offices of people needing financial aid to get by. CONTINUED ON PAGE 3 ¾ ¾ Marilyn Rodrigues Sadness as St Charles doors shut 29, March, 2020 A CALL WHICH BRINGS PEACE DON’T LET THIS VIRUS BEAT US P12 P24 Fr Greg Morgan shuts the doors of St Charles Borromeo church in Ryde for the last time as places of worship are shut down on 23 March 2020. PHOTO:ALPHONSUS FOK