The coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing to be a growing concern for health authorities worldwide and as at 12 March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared this matter a pandemic.
Queensland Health and the Australian Department of Health are working tirelessly to manage and contain the impact of this virus for Australians and Queenslanders alike. You can access the latest information about the virus at health.gov.au. The Catholic Diocese of Townsville continues to work closely with its agencies including Townsville Catholic Education, Mary MacKillop Childcare North Queensland, Centacare and Saints Catholic College and the relevant state authorities, including Queensland Health, to monitor the situation and identify and manage any impacts. You can be assured that we have been preparing and stand ready to act should the need arise.
In addition to the advice of our State and Commonwealth health authorities we would like to advise the measures we will implement for the Diocese as part of our duty of care and commitment to the safety of all members of our communities. We will update this information as circumstances change in line with the professional advice we receive.
- Individuals should consider their own health, including any potential to infect others with a contagious disease, before attending any public liturgical celebration
- Sufficient and accessible preventative supplies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (e.g. provision of hand washing facilities or hand hygiene products, and bins)
- Posters and Notices should be displayed and circulated stating any guidance or changes in practice.
- Implement cleaning measures before, during and after gatherings with a focus to the cleaning of commonly touched surfaces (i.e. door handles, light switches, musical instruments, desks, keyboards etc.)
- Consider alternative options for thanksgiving collections that do not require passing of containers (e.g. leaving collection).
Guidelines for changed liturgical practices (4 March 2020)
Bishop Tim Harris has released a letter to the People of the Diocese of Townsville outlining changes to Liturgical practices due to COVID-19.
Special Dispensation granted (18 March 2020)
A special dispensation has been granted to those members of the community who are over 70 years of age and older and those who are sick and infirm and have underlying health issues.
Special message to the people of the Diocese (20 March 2020)
Before the weekend Masses that are permitted around the Townsville Diocese, considering the Commonwealth Government restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Pastoral letter to the Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of Townsville regarding the latest instructions in response to COVID-19 Pandemic (24 March 2020)
Prayer in this time of Crisis
Almighty and all-merciful God,
Lover of the human race, healer of all our wounds,
In who, there is no shadow of death,
Save us in this time of crisis:
Grant wisdom and courage to our leaders;
Watch over all medical people
As they tend to the sick and work for a cure;
Stir in us a sense of solidarity beyond all isolation;
If our doors are closed, let our hearts be open.
By the power of your love destroy the virus of fear,
That hope may never die
And the light of Easter, the triumph of life,
May shine upon us and the whole world.
Through Jesus Christ, the Lord risen from the dead,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Holy Mary, health of the sick, pray for us.
St Joseph, guardian of us all, pray for us.
Road Map to Reopening Churches
After weeks of lockdown measures we are now on the cusp of a gradual relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions. The Queensland Government has released a 3 Stage roadmap and this week I have written to priests, pastoral leaders and parish council chairs about a common approach to opening up our Churches to increased numbers for ordinary Masses.
My request has been that, before a parish can accept increased numbers at general liturgies, it must have in place a COVIDSafe Plan, approved by me, that ensures implementation of pandemic protection directives at each stage of the roadmap. Resources have been sent to parishes, including a Diocesan Template for a Parish COVIDSafe Plan and material to help parishes think through the measures that need to be put in place in order to comply with serious WHS responsibilities regarding parishioners, workers/volunteers and visitors. This is an ongoing pandemic. Once a parish has its plan approved by me it can open its Church/es for general liturgies to the extent that government safety directives allow.
Bearing all of the above in mind I have taken what I believe to be a sensible approach in not allowing any change until Stage 2 commencing on the weekend of 13/14 June. That provides a small window of time for parishes to properly prepare and send me their proposed COVIDSafe Plans. Parishes then need to organise the implementation of their plans. We all need to remember that this is not just about us and our life as Catholic communities. It’s about everyone in this region and we must play our part in keeping all our fellow citizens free from this virus.
On that note, I strongly encourage all to download the COVIDSAFE tracing app to your mobile phone. Queensland regional areas have had a good record in terms of infection numbers and containing the spread. The tracing app will help curtail any future outbreak.