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CORONA VIRUS 2020: Archbishop Costelloe issues revised temporary liturgical directives


Archbishop Costelloe has this week announced revised and temporary liturgical directives. Photo: Ron Tan.

By Jamie O'Brien and Eric Martin

Masses across the Archdiocese have this week been temporarily suspended at all Churches and chapels across the Archdiocese.

The temporary suspension, announced by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB in an email to the Perth Catholic community, will be in place for two weeks, commencing yesterday Wednesday 18 March until Wednesday 1 April.

“The Prime Minister has expressly communicated a ‘ban on non-essential gatherings of persons of one hundred or greater in indoor areas’,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“The government’s existing ban on non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500 persons or greater, which came into effect on Monday 16 March 2020, remains in effect.

“I commit the Archdiocese of Perth to the support of, and compliance with, both of these government directives and the associated and instructive public health advice,” he said.

The statement continued by explaining that the Western Australian and Federal Governments continue to issue ongoing public health advice in relation to COVID–19. 

“The Archdiocese of Perth continues to be guided by this advice through our ongoing commitment to monitoring any threat posed by COVID–19 to Catholic communities across our Archdiocese,” Archbishop Costelloe emphasised.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus, with patients experiencing symptoms from a mild cough to pneumonia. The virus was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.

Some 454 people have been infected across Australia, with 31 cases in WA as of 18 March, and globally, some 190,600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, with more than 7,700 deaths.

As of 18 March, more than 80,000 tests have already been undertaken in Australia and the Doherty Institute in Melbourne has developed an alternative testing process, ensuring Australia has a diverse range of tests and can protect and maintain its supply of testing kits as the outbreak progresses.


The new directives include:

Temporary Suspension of the Public Celebration of the Mass

All public Masses at all churches and chapels across the Archdiocese of Perth will be temporarily suspended from receipt of these directives on Wednesday 18 March 2020.  This temporary suspension of public Masses within the Archdiocese of Perth is in place for an initial period of two weeks between Wednesday 18 March 2020 and Wednesday 1 April 2020.  Subsequent revisions and advice will be given prior to Wednesday 1 April 2020 in relation to this temporary suspension.

The Sunday Obligation for the faithful does not apply during this time of emergency.

Accessibility to Churches and Chapels

Parish Priests, Administrators and Rectors, in consultation with their communities of worship and the directives of public health advice, will put in place provisions for churches and chapels to remain open for private prayer, with the possibility of Eucharistic Adoration.

Celebration of the Sacraments of the Church

The following temporary directives are to be observed in relation to the celebration of the Sacraments of the Church:

  • Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals will continue until further directives are issued.
    • I direct that each gathering must conform to the government-issued bans for indoor and outdoor public gatherings, and the relevant public health advice in relation to the practices of social distancing.
    • The Metropolitan Cemeteries Board has determined that all funerals should be restricted to no more than 50 people at each gathering.  These directives are outlined in a memo from the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board which has been placed on the Archdiocesan website.
    • A number of funeral homes have provided advice to the Archdiocese of Perth that from Wednesday 18 March 2020 they will be limiting the size of gatherings at funerals to less than one hundred people.  I advise you to specifically consult with relevant funeral homes directly when arranging funerals to ensure that you are aware of, and adhere to, their specific policies.
  • Reconciliation: Priests will continue to provide opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, according to Rite I (individual confession and absolution).
  • The celebration of First Reconciliation (school-aged children and others), First Holy Communion (school-aged children and others) and Confirmation (school-aged children and others) will be temporarily suspended.
  • I have today provided a letter to Parish Priests, Principals, Sacramental Coordinators and Catechists advising them of these temporary suspensions.
  • A copy of this letter will made available by both Catholic Education Western Australia and on the Archdiocese of Perth website:

Ministry of Communion to the Sick, Elderly and Housebound

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is placing limits on visits to vulnerable groups. Those who minister communion to the sick, elderly and housebound (Clergy, Acolytes and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion)  are directed to review the AHPPC’s latest updates and recommended measures to assist in protecting vulnerable people from COVID-19. 

The advice of the AHPPS can be found here:

Chrism Mass and the Celebration of the Easter Triduum (Thursday 9 April – Sunday 12 April, 2020)

In response to, and in support of the government’s ban of indoor gatherings of one hundred persons or more, the celebration of both the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum must be examined.  Options for live-streaming the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum on the internet are being considered and developed. Subsequent advice and directives will be issued in advance of the celebration of the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum.

Archbishop Costelloe also explained that the Archdiocese of Perth will be providing a series of prayer and worship resources for individuals and families to use within their homes for the period in which these directives are in effect. Web links to resources are available on the Archdiocese of Perth’s Centre for Liturgy website:

Additional links and suggestions for prayer resources will be regularly placed on the Archdiocese of Perth website in the COVID-19 section:

The new directives by the Archbishop are in addition to those that were released by Bishop Donald Sproxton earlier this week.

The subsequent directives are temporary and will remain in place until such time as Archbishop Costelloe SDB issues revised directives.


The directives include:

  • Holy Water is to be removed from stoups in all Churches and Chapels.
  • Offertory gifts are to be in closed vessels or, where this is not possible, vessels should be appropriately covered.
  • The Sign of Peace is to be omitted at all Masses.
  • The distribution of Holy Communion under both species is to cease.
  • The Precious Blood is not to be shared from the chalice at any Masses and is reserved to the celebrant(s) only.
  • Priests are to encourage communicants to receive the Sacred Host in the hand, not on the tongue.
  • All priests and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are to wash their hands in soap and water, or are to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser both immediately before and immediately after the distribution of Holy Communion.

“All of the above precautionary directives are additional to our normal requirements that all sacred vessels are thoroughly washed before and after each Mass,” Bishop Sproxton said.

“I encourage you to join with me in praying for all those who have passed away or who have been affected by coronavirus; for the women and men working tirelessly to care for those affected; and for the development of a vaccine,” Bishop Sproxton concluded.

In a statement also released yesterday, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) said they will continue to monitor advice from health authorities and other episcopal conferences. This advice will be updated as and when appropriate.

The Australian Government’s Department of Health has launched a national campaign to inform all Australians about COVID-19 with the goal of enabling families and individuals to access the latest health recommendations.

Campaign resources can be found at:

As mentioned previously, yesterday’s release from the Prime Minister’s office states that non-essential indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people (including staff) are no longer permitted as of Wednesday 18 March 2020.

There are general measures that all outdoor events of under 500 people should follow, including that in a given occupied space, there must be no more than one person per four square metres of ground space.

Public transport is essential and will continue to operate, but the PM’s office also advices that AHPPC guidelines should apply in relation to the transport of vulnerable populations, with particular attention given to cleaning and hygiene.

Vulnerable Australians include indigenous communities and NDIS participants, with additional support arrangements confirmed by tomorrow, Friday 20 March 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the Government has strongly endorsed the AHPPC’s advice against the bulk purchase of foods, medicines and other goods: “We strongly discourage the panic purchase of food and other supplies.”

Schools will remain open at this time, with the Government adopting AHPPC’s view that “pre-emptive closures are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time.”

However, boarding schools are “at high risk of transmission” and encouraged boarding schools and parents to “consider the risks versus the benefits of a student remaining in boarding school”.

University and higher education “should continue at this time” with risk mitigation measures, including working from home arrangements where effective.

The Government’s advice to all Australians - regardless of destination, age or health - is do not travel overseas at this time, posting the highest travel advice warning at level four of four.

Additional information and access to daily health alerts can be obtained from the Australian Government’s Department of Health: