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Back to Mass for a few

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South Australian Catholics have returned to Mass, albeit in much smaller numbers, following the easing of restrictions on places of worship.

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From June 1, new government regulations allowed for a maximum of 20 people to attend a place of worship, with social distancing and extra hygiene measures still in place.

Acting chancellor Sarah Moffatt, who has been part of a team of Christian leaders involved in discussions with the State Government about the restrictions, said the increase in the number of people able to be inside churches was welcomed and a step in the right direction.

“However, the leaders of Christian churches are continuing to discuss with the government the ability to be permitted to utilise the capacity of their church building, whilst maintaining physical distance (one person per four sqm) and hygiene and hand sanitisation,” she said.

Premier Steven Marshall acknowledged that a limit of 20 people (excluding staff) per room was challenging for churches which   function as one room.

He said the government would work to develop a safe, risk managed approach to places of worship.

Until that time, large services would continue to be prohibited.

While the obligation for Sunday Mass for the laity has not been reinvoked at this stage, many parishioners are welcoming the opportunity to worship and receive communion inside a church.

At St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral extra services are being offered to enable more people to worship throughout the day.

Three Masses are now held each weekday (8am, 12.10pm, 5.45pm), three on Saturday (11.30am, 5pm, 6pm), with Sunday services including the 2.30pm African Mass and Masses at 5pm and 6pm. The 10am Mass continues to be live streamed on the Archdiocese’s website and replayed on Channel 44 at 4pm. Baptisms are now also permitted to be held on Sunday.

In the suburbs, parishes have been coming up with unique ways to engage with their communities in these challenging times.

 At Brooklyn Park/Richmond, parish priest Fr Peter Zwaans is offering a “rolling communion” from 9am to noon on Sundays so that as many parishioners as possible can receive the sacrament.

The initiative has been well received, with more than 130 parishioners taking the opportunity to receive communion on Sunday May 31 – and many were overwhelmed by the experience.

“For some of the people coming they got quite emotional just walking into the church,” Fr Zwaans said.

“It was a really moving experience for them as they hadn’t been able to come inside the church for a couple of months and then of course receiving the sacrament is such an important part of their faith.”

Fr Zwaans has been producing the Corona of Thorns podcast each day and parishioners are being encouraged to listen to this at home or in their car prior to entering the church for communion on Sunday.

Once inside they can pray before moving to the front of the church and standing on crosses marked on the floor to receive communion.

“Through this ‘rolling communion’ we are able to accommodate more people… we are trying to offer the best of both worlds so they can come to church on Sunday for Holy Communion and then attend Mass during the week,” he said.

Under the new government regulations funerals may have a maximum of 50 attendees.

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