The Catholic Weekly 31 May 2020 $2 31, May, 2020 FROM VICTIM TO FINDING HOPE JANE ROE: NOBODY’S PAWN P12 Petition victory Massive response toArchdiocese’scampaign tore-openchurches forcesPremier toact Before the petition: two women pray outside the locked gates of St Charbel’s church in Punchbowl last Friday 22 May. PHOTO: GIOVANNI PORTELLI VAD delayed in Qld Funding welcomed CHURCH AND Pro-Life organisations in Queens- land welcomed a delay to the introduction of as- sisted suicide legislation in the Queensland parlia- ment. QLD Premier An- nastacia Palaszsczuk an- nounced that instead of debating and voting on government’s voluntary assisted dying (VAD) leg- islation before the Oc- tober state election, the proposal will be referred to the Law Reform Com- mission to report back to the Attorney-General by March 2021. Cherish Life executive director Teeshan Johnson said the Premier had “re- sisted the push from ex- tremists to rush through euthanasia laws” but it was disappointing that “there is any appetite for euthanasia legislation from the government”. THE NATIONAL Catho- lic Education Commis- sion applauded the Gov- ernment’s decision expanding the Excep- tional Circumstance Sup- plementary Payment to support early childhood education and care ser- vices not eligible for Job- Keeper payments. NCE Executive Direc- tor Jacinta Collins wel- comed the move, saying the announcement would help Catholic early child- hood and care services across Australia continue to operate and support Catholic school families during the pandemic. “The Catholic educa- tion sector operates about 250 early childhood cen- tres educating nearly 5,000 children, as well offering before and after school care and vacation care to families at many Catholic schools across Australia,” Ms Collins said. “This supplementary payment for services, that are not eligible for Job- keeper, will ensure that the service can continue during this uncertain pe- riod. With restrictions easing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind ... People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally ...” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP NSW CATHOLICS are cele- brating a victory this weekend after Premier Gladys Berejik- lian was pressured into scrap- ping unfair COVID-19 restric- tions on places of worship. In less than two days 20,000 Catholics signed a petition strongly protesting the une- qual treatment of churches in maintaining a 10-worshipper limit from 1 June while the maximum number for clubs, restaurants, pubs and other venues was lifted to 50. The Archdiocese of Sydney launched the petition on 27 May after pleas from religious and some civic leaders fell on deaf ears. ArchbishopAnthony Fisher OP said that the double stand- ards being applied to people of faith were “disappointing” and “cannot be ignored” at a time when a bus stopping outside St Mary’s Cathedral is allowed to hold more people ¾ ¾ Marilyn Rodrigues than the cavernous building itself. “I amat a loss to explain to Catholics in Sydney why our reasonable requests to the government are not being granted,” he said. On 29 May he welcomed the government’s sudden change of heart flagged by Premier Berejiklian late on Thursday. “The closure of our church- es and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” Archbishop Fisher said. “It added to the isolation and anxiety that somany were feeling. With restrictions eas- ing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind, and wanted to make their voices heard. “People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally.” SydneyCatholics expressed relief at the news, which also means weddings will be al- lowed 20 people and funerals 50 people. “While it’s true that a beer down at the pub with mates is a hallmark of Australian cul- ture, communion with Christ and His Church are essential to the life of Catholics,” said Sarah Moody a parishioner at St Peter’s church in Surry Hills. “There’s no reason we can’t now have both.” Alison de Sousa, a high school teacher and parishion- er at St Felix de Valois in Bank- stown, said that she and her friends had been frustrated at the government’s “misunder- standing of the place of our worship services in society”. “Not being in church means we have missed that interaction with each other and also the ability to receive our Lord in the Eucharist.” Both had signed the peti- tion which read, “Contrary to what has been said through- out this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practice of our faith”. Archbishop Fisher said he was grateful that so many people took the time to sign the petition expressing their desire to return to church. “I look forward to welcoming them back in greater numbers fromMonday,” he said. “We know that people cling to their faith in difficult times, and I amgrateful that they will have this opportunity to find hope and solace in their place of worship. “We will continue to abide by government health direc- tives, and continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and all those affected by it.” Dr Kevin Donnelly, Senior Research Fellow at the Aus- tralian Catholic University said that the case illustrated that “the price of religious freedom is eternal vigilance”. “While it is good that the NSW Government has admit- ted its mistake in not treating churches and other places of worship fairly, the reality is that its original decision to re- strict the number of worship- pers was unfairly discrimina- tory and wrong,” he said. ONLINE: A DECISION THE PREMIER HAD TO REVERSE P24