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COVID-19 update: Places of worship back to 100 per cent capacity, Bishops encourage vaccine

By Amanda Murthy

The Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement have released a statement to encourage the Catholic public to take the COVID-19 vaccinations, for the health and safety of the wider community. Photo: Ron Tan.

Catholics in Australia are being encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, with the relevant Bishops Commission saying it is morally permissible to accept any vaccine.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement acknowledges that there are ethical concerns about the way some of the vaccines have been developed or tested.

That includes the use of cell lines derived from an abortion in the 1970s.

Despite those concerns, the Commission follows the guidance of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in urging people to be vaccinated for their own health, and for the health of the wider community.

This statement dated 20 April was released shortly after the announcement by the Western Australian government on 9 April, when a nod was given to 100 per cent fixed seating capacity to places of worship, in spaces being used for formal worship from 12.01am Saturday, 10 April.

WA’s major venues such as Optus Stadium, RAC Arena, HBF Stadium – Main Arena, HBF Park are now able to have 100 per of the fixed seating capacity in the spectator seating and special seating spaces.

Other indoor and outdoor venues that can hold 100 per cent capacity include auditoriums and amphitheaters, theatres, concert halls, cinemas, comedy lounges and performing arts centres.

Seated hospitality venues, including restaurants, cafés, food courts and bars that provide seated service only, will remain at 75 per cent capacity. This is based on the latest public health advice, due to their higher risk of increased mixing and face to face interactions.

With all the venues mentioned, the SafeWA and contact registers will continue as a mandatory process, upon arrival.

The two square metre rules will continue to apply to all other venues and facilities with a mixture of seating and standing, unfixed seating or standing alone. 

Meanwhile, citing the Vatican document, the bishops say, “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process”.

They add that “if you are only offered one option, you may receive whichever vaccine you are offered, including the AstraZeneca one, with a clear conscience”.

For those who have “a serious reason” not to receive the vaccine, they are “morally obliged to do their utmost, by other protective means and appropriate behaviour, to avoid contracting COVID-19 themselves and to avoid transmission of the disease”.

The bishops’ advice expresses a strong preference for people to have a choice of which COVID-19 vaccine they receive.

When that choice is offered, Catholics should choose the least morally compromised vaccine – which in Australia would currently mean the Pfizer vaccine or, in future, Novavax (if approved).

Churches in Western Australia are back to 100 per cent capacity since 10 April. As of 20 April 2021, the WA Health is monitoring 27 active cases of COVID-19 and 942 people have recovered from the virus in WA. Photo: Ron Tan.

Chair of the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement Archbishop Peter Comensoli reiterated the Church’s view that civil and health authorities should “work ethically with respect for every human person from conception until natural death”.

“At all times we oppose the destruction of human life,” Archbishop Comensoli said.

“At the same time, remote connection with such actions is an important factor when considering our responsibility to the common good and the health of others.”

The document which includes questions and answers about COVID-19 vaccines, encourages people to consult with their own medical practitioner when making decisions about vaccines.

Women who are pregnant or hoping to get pregnant are specifically advised to consult their doctor.

As of 20 April, the Department of Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 overnight, all who are return travelers, currently in hotel quarantine. The third, a seaman in his 50s, who was transferred from a bulk carrier anchored off the Pilbara coast, is in a COVID-19 isolation ward in Royal Perth Hospital.

The State’s total number now stands at 978.

WA Health is monitoring 27 active cases of COVID-19 and 942 people have recovered from the virus in WA.

To date, the WA Department of Health has administered 78 215 COVID-19 vaccinations, including 17 331 people who have received both doses. Yesterday, 1958 people were vaccinated.

Find the bishops’ guidance on the COVID-19 vaccines, including frequently asked questions, at: