He has launched a petition on the Catholic Archdiocese’s website aimed at the Berejiklian government asking that houses of worship be included in the new measures.
“We are not looking for special treatment, just equal treatment,” he said. “We’ve co-operated at every step with the public health people and have shown we have been very responsible.”
Archbishop Fisher pointed out that 12 people would be allowed under the new rules to catch a bus together to St Mary’s Cathedral, but it was “absurd” that only 10 of them would then be allowed in for mass — despite its 2600 sqm of floor space.
“We’ve given plans to the Premier on what we can do to minimise the risk in churches — marking where people can sit, stopping the passing of hymn books or collection plates, and asking the very elderly to stay at home in any case,” he said.
Archbishop Fisher’s concerns have been echoed by other faith groups.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff yesterday told The Daily Telegraph: “There is far less risk of infection in properly distanced religious services and classes than in a pub, where glasses and other items may be passed around.”
Australian National Imam’s Council spokesman Bilal Rauf suggested that the state government needed to think about its priorities, noting that houses of worship are critical to the health and wellbeing of many people.
“Our general view is that there appears to be a disparity in the approach to dealing with clubs and poker machines as opposed to houses of worship,” he said.
“It’s difficult to understand why places of worship would be carved out and excluded while other businesses, particularly pubs and clubs, are allowed more people.”
The Archdiocese’s petition, which went online overnight at openourchurches.com.au, reads in part: “Contrary to what has been said throughout this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practise of our faith.
“This unequal treatment of religious worship leads us to ask whether the government is listening to the concerns of Catholics and other people of faith or indifferent to the effect the closure of our churches is having on people during these difficult times.”