Restrictions on churches in New South Wales are set to be eased after a petition from the Archdiocese of Sydney condemned the “double standards” of existing regulations.
From Monday, places of worship will be allowed to have up to 50 people inside on the condition they practice social distancing. Currently, only 10 people are allowed in churches at any one time.
7News also reports that up to 20 people will be allowed to attend weddings and 50 people will be allowed at funerals.
The decision comes after more than 10,000 people signed a petition criticising the Australian state’s rules. “Why are 50 people allowed to dine in a restaurant, but only 10 people are allowed to attend Mass, even though our churches are often much larger in size?” the petition read.
In a post on Facebook, Archbishop Anthony Fisher said: “It makes no sense that a bus that stops outside St Mary’s Cathedral can have more people in it than the Cathedral itself. It makes no sense that people have to sign in when they enter the Cathedral, but not when they enter the café across the road.”
These regulations are an “obvious double-standard”, he added.
The climbdown comes just days after the Governor of the US state of Minnesota eased restrictions on church attendance after bishops threatened to defy previous guidelines.
The Minnesota bishops said the original guidelines, which prohibited religious gatherings exceeding 10 people, were unfairly restrictive towards religious services. As a result, they announced plans to ignore the guidelines and permit more than 10 people at Mass.
Governor Tim Walz subsequently issued a new order easing the restrictions. Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis welcomed the new order, saying: “As you know, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota believe that the previous limitation on faith-based gatherings to ten people unreasonably burdened the Church’s ability to fully meet the sacramental needs of our faithful.”
“As allowances were made for other, less essential activities, it seemed to many that the life of faith was receiving unequal treatment,” he added. “The new executive order removes that unreasonable burden on the Church and allows us to bring the Eucharist, the food of everlasting life, to our community.”
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