By Vatican News
After weeks of restrictions in New Zealand due to the coronavirus, 338 churches in the country will re-open their doors beginning on Thursday.
In a letter sent to parishioners and priests on Tuesday, the Bishops of New Zealand said that from 14 May people will be able to go to churches for private prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Public Masses, however, are still suspended under the Alert Level 2 phase.
Under the new Level 2 guidelines announced by the Government on Monday, religious gatherings must be kept to a maximum of 10 people.
Last week the Government had stated that Masses and other religious services would have been possible with a 100-person limit.
Following this latest announcement, the Bishops have expressed their disappointment at the limited number allowed to assemble in churches, calling the latest measures too restrictive.
The Bishops’ letter noted that the Government will reconsider the limit of 10 people at religious services in two weeks.
It also said Catholic bishops are joining with the Anglican Church in asking the Government to look again with urgency at increasing that number.
While this is a difficult and challenging time, the Bishops said they continue to be “encouraged and inspired by the number of people who have taken the opportunity during this lockdown time to deepen their spiritual life and re-evaluate their daily lives as individuals and families.”
All celebrations of Mass were suspended on 20 March and churches closed five days later as New Zealand was locked down in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the announcement of these latest rules, the online streaming of many Masses is likely to continue for some time.