Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has written a special message to the clergy and faithful in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, expressing his closeness and concern while acknowledging the many challenges facing the community during this extended period of lockdown.
It follows last week's overturning of restrictions on spiritual ministry to the sick and the dying, an oversight that was quickly remedied by the Government.
'Throughout the pandemic, I have been advocating directly with the Government, reminding authorities continually of our respectful compliance with each stage of restrictions, and seeking a fair consideration in what is permitted,' said Archbishop Comensoli.
'The Catholic community throughout the pandemic has been constructive and positive. We have, and continue to act in a mature way, caring for the safety and vulnerability of Victorians facing great risk. Thankfully the signs of driving down COVID numbers are looking good at this moment and Catholics join other people of faith in giving thanks for this outcome and working to ensure the steps ahead do not take us backward.'
Earlier in the week, the Archbishop recorded a video message in which he explained some of the work being done in the background to help the Catholic community move towards a re-opening of its sacramental life here in the Archdiocese.
A video message from Most Rev Peter A Comensoli
Archbishop of Melbourne
[Transcript: Published 15 September 2020]
'Hello friends, it is good to be here with you again.
I have been mindful of this week particularly – and you would have seen perhaps in the news – that there was something of a challenge that was posed by some regulations that came in that we weren’t aware of in terms of the visiting of the sick and the dying, and the providing of sacramental care. It is absolutely profoundly important for our people that they, that you, are able to receive – those of you who are seriously unwell or are dying in your family – might receive the sacramental love of the Lord at that particular time.
Thankfully, the Government was very, very quick in responding and made sure that things were changed, and that those permissions and things are back in place now. But it did prompt me think that I might share with you what I am doing in the background in terms of making sure that the needs, your needs as God’s people, are being attended to in this lockdown period.
There is one principle that I have been working with the Government on throughout this now six months, and that is consistency and fairness. Whatever decisions are made for the good of all people, that there will be consistency and fairness about how they are applied to people of faith – us Christians and Catholics. And so, that has been something that I have been working on with my own staff with both the Premier’s Office and in the other authorities – and that I should say, has been a principal that has been sustained through this time and I hope will continue to be so.
There are two other things that I am working on with the Government at the moment around the particular Roadmap Stages that are being developed.
I want to see if we can get some movement in terms of when the outdoor spaces regulations are put in place – that we might be able to have something in our sites, and here at the Cathedral, where outdoor Mass might be opened. I can’t promise you anything at this stage, it is a work in progress with the Government, but hopefully, we might be able to get there and that might be possible in small numbers initially.
Something else I have been working with the Government on is a concern that I have had, particularly for our young children and their not being able to receive their Sacraments of Initiation – Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Confirmation. So it is now six months, and we would normally be winding up our Confirmation season for the year and none have actually been confirmed this year. As such I have also been working with the Government to see if there is a way that we can – if schools are allowed to open up again (if children are back at schools), then whether we might be able to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation within that context. It is certainly not ideal, I do recognise all of that, but I really do want to find ways that the sacramental life of the Church can be opened up again as soon as is possible.
Finally, if you do have someone in your family who is sick and dying, please get in touch with your local priest and invite him to come to be able to offer the sacramental care of Jesus Christ, the sacramental care of the Church, to your loved ones at this time. It is allowable again, thanks be to God, and I just want to encourage you to be able to find ways for this. I note that not all hospitals or care facilities are open in that regard, in that each place has to have its own rules and regulations and we have to fit in with that, but as best as possible it should be made available to you at this time.
Once again, I offer my prayer for you, particularly mindful of families and the ongoing struggle of trying to balance work and home. If you haven’t got work anymore – the great burden that you are carrying with that; if you are trying to work with your children, keeping them healthy and happy. All of these things I am particularly mindful of at the moment, and once again I offer you my prayer and my closeness, and just to assure you that I am doing in the background what can be done to move towards again an opening up of the sacramental life here in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Go well. My blessings and prayers to you all.'