Australia

‘Double standards’: Archbishop of Sydney upset with 10-person church limit compared to pubs’ 50

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Thursday, 20 February, 2020. Source: AAP

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is urging worshippers to sign a petition calling on the government to allow more than 10 people at a time to attend church.

Sydney's Catholic church says people of faith are being treated differently than those wanting a drink at a pub, as coronavirus restrictions ease.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is urging worshippers to sign a petition calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to allow more than 10 people at a time in church, as restrictions permitting up to 50 people at a time to gather at pubs, clubs and restaurants take effect on Monday.

"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 practice of our faith," the petition says.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher says he is standing up for freedom of worship "when I see so many double standards being applied to people of faith".

"We aren't asking for special treatment, we are asking for equal treatment, which is why we are requesting the premier to have a change of heart and include churches in the June 1 changes to the public health order allowing 50 people to come together for prayer or attend Mass", Archbishop Fisher said in a statement on Thursday.

"Currently the bus that stops outside my cathedral can have more people inside it than my cathedral can. It simply doesn't make sense. People of faith have to already sign in to visit a church and provide contact details, which we are adhering to, but patrons to a cafe do not. Why is a place of worship being treated differently?"

Archbishop Fisher said he had twice written to Ms Berejiklian, once jointly with all the Catholic bishops of NSW, about measures that could be taken to minimise risk while relaxing restrictions around churches, but his calls for action from the government have been ignored.

"We have a ridiculous situation where a restaurant with a dimension of 200 square metres can now have 50 people for hours on end, while St Mary's Cathedral, which is more than 10 times larger, is only allowed 10 people," he said.

New rules from 1 June will allow 50 people in NSW to dine in restaurants, pubs and cafes, up from 10 currently, while outdoor gatherings will be allowed for a maximum of 10 people.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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