VICTORIA'S Catholic churches have joined as one to pen an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews to plea for a return of church services across Victoria.
While all of regional Victoria has been on Step Three for the past two weeks, which has allowed restaurants to return to limited dine-in operations, church services have been yet to resume in any great numbers, limited to guests at weddings and funerals.
In a letter signed by Ballarat's Most Reverend Paul Bird, along with Reverend Peter Slater from Sale, Most Reverend Shane Mackinley from Sandhurst and Most Reverend Peter Comensoli, Archbishop of Melbourne, they say the ban on religious gatherings simply does not pass the 'pub test'.
"People of faith across regional and metropolitan Victoria have raised serious concerns about the unfairness and inconsistency in the numbers allowed for religious gatherings by comparison with other sectors in the current 'third step'," the letter reads.
"We are being asked what the reason is for this dramatic difference, and we are unable to provide an answer, even after several meetings with DHHS in which we have sought explanations.
"Over the last two weeks, we have worked cooperatively with members of the government and health authorities, and have resolved a number of inconsistencies and communication difficulties.
"However, a pressing need remains to address the unfairness of the disparity in numbers."
The Bishops ask if people of faith can gather in a restaurant or bar catering for a particular number of patrons (and remove their face covering), why can't they put on their mask, cross the road and worship in their faith community with the same numbers, provided equivalent COVID-safe practices are in place?
"Catholic communities have shown their commitment to acting responsibly and cooperatively throughout the pandemic, and they will be greatly encouraged in this if they can see that people of faith are being given the same consideration as other sectors of the community," they said.
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