Austria: The episcopate tightens the rules in the churches

All liturgical ministers must provide 3G proof (vaccinated, convalescent, tested). There are also clear restrictions on singing and music. Similar restrictions are already in place in the dioceses of Linz and Salzburg, where exacerbations in the church area were forced by the serious coronavirus situation in Upper Austria and Salzburg.

From November 22, the FFP2 mask requirement will also apply without exception to one-off religious celebrations such as baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Wedding. – In the interest of people participating in the celebrations, they should now be postponed as far as possible – explained in an interview with the Austrian Catholic agency Kathpress Bishop Anton Leichtfried, chairman of the Liturgical Commission of the Austrian Episcopate. He added that if these ceremonies would take place anyway, they had to be held in compliance with the applicable regulations and under the control of an authorized person.

Singing during services will also be significantly limited – of course only wearing masks. Choir singing has been suspended, only four soloists will be able to sing. The same is true of music in church services, where currently only up to four instrumentalists and an organ can play. Solists must document their evidence of low epidemiological risk (2G evidence – vaccinated, recuperated) in accordance with the current government regulation to control the spread of Covid-19. A distance of at least two meters is required, no FFP2 mask is required when singing.

At the same time, the bishops made it clear that “in order not to exclude anyone from attending open church services, participation is still possible without proving a low epidemiological risk.” However, the safeguards in place are necessary to ensure that the services can be held without risk. “Personal responsibility and prudence are the basic preconditions,” stressed the Austrian bishops.

The obligation to wear masks does not apply to children under the age of six and people who have a medical certificate that, for health reasons, they cannot wear even popular masks to protect their nose and mouth. Such masks, instead of FFP-2, can be used by pregnant women and children from six to 14 years of age. The liturgical service of the altar (priest, reader / lecturer) is exempt from the obligation to wear masks during the service, but with larger intervals.

The liturgical service, especially the altar servers, should be limited to those “most needed”. From November 13, they are obliged to present a 3G certificate, and the person who conducts the ceremony is responsible for compliance with the regulations.

As before, it is forbidden to shake hands during a service for peace. Baskets for the collection of offerings should not be placed successively in the pews, but should be placed e.g. at the entrance and exit from the temple.

When publishing the current rules, the Austrian Episcopate points out that they only apply to services. For other Church events, such as group meetings, church cafes, and concerts, state rules must be followed.

The framework regulation allows dioceses, as recently, to have regional autonomy in the fight against the coronavirus. In this way, both tightening and easing are possible in line with the regulations of the region concerned.

In addition, the bishops called on those who “feel sick” not to go to church, but “for their own protection and for the protection of others” united in common prayer during the broadcast of services in various media. Churches should stay open during the day and invite people to pray personally.

About Banner Leon

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