Church elects to close doors until all can be welcomed

Closed doors at the Cobar Catholic Church are a sign of the church being inclusive rather than exclusive with the local parish choosing to stay closed until everyone can be admitted as per the NSW Public Health Orders.

The Cobar Catholic Church will be closed until NSW Public Health Orders once again allow everyone to be welcomed into the church.
Cobar’s St Laurence O’Toole Church parish joins other Catholic communities within the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese and all around the state who are choosing to leave their church doors closed rather than turning people away.
According to the NSW Government’s roadmap, as of this week only double vaccinat-ed people are permitted to attend places of worship and religious gatherings.
Cobar parish priest Fr Paul Finucane said the matter had been discussed by the church’s bishops and among priests in each diocese with local parish councils then given the final decision on whether or not to open the doors.
“Being excluded from worship is not a part of our Christian theology.
“We felt that we can’t turn people away from the door of a church, it’s not Christian,” Fr Paul said.
“We don’t turn people away from the Eucha-rist and coming to Sunday Mass.”
He said the decision to close was a unani-mous one made by the members of the parish council.
“We felt it best if we close our church until 80 percent vaccination is reached (which the Government expects will be in about two weeks time) and therefore we can open up again to those who are vaccinated and those who are not vaccinated or not double vaccinat-ed, the same as every other person with a busi-ness is doing or will have to do,” Fr Paul said.
As part of his advice to parishes in the Wil-cannia-Forbes Diocese, Bishop Columba Mac-beth-Green said the Church has a moral obliga-tion to ensure that our communities are kept safe at all times.
“Keeping our communities safe during the pandemic is an act of charity towards one an-other.
“I remind everyone that this is not the time to argue the facts and deny the realities of the current crisis we as a state are now facing.
“We must all cooperate with the regulations set out by the NSW Government and the dio-cese,” Bishop Columba said.
Fr Paul said he was aware that some local parishioners haven’t yet been double vaccinat-ed and are still awaiting their second dose.
“There’s also a number of parishioners who are not vaccinated at all and don’t intend to get vaccinated,” he said.
“During the time of closure I will be doing exactly what I did during lockdown and visit-ing the people in their homes which I’m al-lowed to do as it’s classed as pastoral care,” he explained.
Fr Paul said he can offer communion, talk about any worries or concerns and anoint the sick.
“I’m kept quite busy,” he said.
The Cobar church has been open to all visi-tors for the past four weeks with Fr Paul con-ducting his last mass on Sunday morning.
At the mass he explained to parishioners the decision to close and answered any questions they had.
Weddings and funeral services will continue in accordance with the current Public Health Orders which both allow up to 100 fully vac-cinated people with density limits.
At weddings there’s a five person limit for people not fully vaccinated and a 10 person limit on funerals for people not fully vaccinat-ed.
Bishop Columba said at the 80 per cent vac-cination rate, it is proposed to open churches for the celebration of Mass and other sacra-ments to all, irrespective of vaccination status.
“Our Churches will continue to comply with the Public Health Order in force at that time including increased capacity limits and other requirements,” he said.