Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In these days of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, we realise how much fear and uncertainty this pandemic has created for everyone. However, I write to you as a minister of hope, strongly urging each one of you to remain prayerful, patient, resilient, and most importantly, filled with hope as we battle this ordeal together as one Church and one family.
The recent situation has prompted the Church and civil authorities to decide what is the best course for our faithful. Hence, with guidance from our civil authorities and the Church, we strongly urge everyone to be aware of the following restrictions to how we operate as a parish:
Holy and Divine Liturgy
• The maximum capacity of persons in the Church at any given time is 70 people, and 30 people in the hall. Anyone arriving after both the church and hall is filled to capacity are kindly requested to remain in the compound of the church. You will be invited to come inside to receive Holy Communion. All basic hygiene and social distancing etiquette are to be observed during this time.
• Efforts are currently undertaken to livestream all celebrations of the Divine Liturgy and the Lenten liturgical services, especially for those who do not have Facebook.
• For parishioners that have Facebook, you are invited to join the “St. Joseph Melkite Catholic Church Activities” group. Please access the following link for livestreams of all liturgical services and prayers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/524012618527577/ Priority will be given to those who are in Melbourne.
• During this period, we strongly urge you to attend the Divine Liturgy with due consideration for your fellow parishioner. Hence, for those who are English-speakers, we strongly recommend that you attend the 6:00pm Divine Liturgy in English, so that opportunity can be given to the Arabic-speakers to attend the morning Liturgy. This is to ensure that everyone has a fair go and that nobody misses out.
Liturgical Services during Lent
• The rules concerning the maximum capacity of persons in the church and the hall during the celebration of the Holy Liturgy are the same for liturgical services and prayers during Lent.
• All Lenten services (Great Compline/Presanctified Gifts/Akathist) will be livestreamed according to schedule.
• The Church will be open for private prayer upon request.
• Only immediate family are allowed to be present at celebrations of Baptism and funeral services.
I understand that these changes are disheartening and disappointing for everyone. However, I ask for your understanding and cooperation, as these are restrictions placed by the Government and the Church. In these challenging times, our priority as a parish is to ensure the best interests and welfare of the larger community. Thank you for your cooperation.
Fr. Samir Haddad.