Bishops: Catholic churches remain open

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The Catholic churches in Austria remain open despite the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections: This was said by the chairman of the bishops’ conference, Franz Lackner, in a press conference on Friday.

The self-imposed precautions are already stricter than the political guidelines, he said. In the first phase, a vaccine must be reserved for groups of people who particularly need it.

At public Catholic services, both outdoors and indoors, a minimum distance of one and a half meters must be maintained and a mouth and nose protector must be worn. In addition, the Church has undertaken to postpone all baptisms, first communions, confirmations and marriages. According to Lackner, this is not to change at present.

“Exercising religion is a deeply existential act”
“The practice of religion is a deeply existential accomplishment for believers,” emphasize the bishops in a statement after their plenary assembly – held for the first time via video conference – with regard to religious freedom. “Encroachments on this fundamental right, such as the suspension of public worship services, are so serious that they must be very well justified in order not to be unconstitutional,” they continued.

The latest news about a promising vaccine also gives hope to the bishops. But this must also be made available worldwide at “reasonable prices”. Persons who, because of their professional function, come into contact with infected people very frequently or who are particularly in need of protection should also be given preference in the distribution of the initially scarce doses.

Big losses
The church still complains about very large financial losses in the collection because of the few church visitors due to the pandemic. There are also cuts in the Caritas, whose collection could not take place this year, Lackner reported. On the other hand, there was no increase in the number of people leaving the church, which, as every year, was around one percent of the faithful.

Another important point at the autumn plenary meeting of the bishops was the recent papal social encyclical “Fratelli tutti”, which also includes a decisive action against the climate crisis. For the Austrian Church, this means that the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in the dioceses must be consistently implemented, the bishops said in their statement.

The Bishops’ Conference views the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus “with great concern”. In their own declaration they expressed their hope for peace in this region.

— hp , source: orf.at. Picture: pixabay.com

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