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Bishops Conference Pastoral Letter regarding Covid-19

20 March 2020

Pastoral letter to parishioners from the Catholic Bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus-related suspension of Mass

The psalm we pray together at this weekend’s
Masses for the Fourth Sunday in Lent is perhaps
the best known and most loved of all the psalms.
For almost three thousand years those who know
God have prayed this prayer in times of comfortable
peace and from the heart of the battlefields of life
when anxiety, persecution and sickness threaten to
overwhelm us.

We often pray this prayer especially as a hymn,
when we gather to bury those we love. And today,
in union with our brothers and sisters of every
nation on earth, together facing the threat of the
new coronavirus, we call to God with deepened
awareness of our need and with confident hope:

Even though we walk in the dark valley, we fear no
evil for you O God are with us giving us courage.

In recent weeks we your bishops have
communicated to you the people of our Catholic
community in Aotearoa New Zealand the
professional advice from the Ministry of Health on
how to keep ourselves and all people, especially the
most vulnerable, safe, and protected from this virus.
We are grateful to all who have immediately
implemented the necessary restrictions, especially
those who find the required changes most difficult.

Now that it is no longer possible for us to gather for
Mass and the sacraments it is important to
remember that the church and the ministries of the
priest remain open twenty-four hours a day seven
days a week. It is our hope that church buildings
remain open for personal prayer, even when the
liturgy which gathers people together is not able to
be celebrated. If you know of people who need the
ministry of a priest for any reason do not hesitate to
make contact with a priest or diocesan office. In
these days, even when the liturgy is not able to be
celebrated together, side-by-side, the life of Jesus
Christ communicated to us through the church
remains open to us.

Diocesan websites are being constantly updated as
new information, restrictions and resources become
available. Please make sure that all parishioners
have access to this important information.

While the visible present fear is a biological virus,
the fact is that we humans face fear every day.
While in these days we are wisely focused on
keeping people safe from the present threat of
infection, in our families and friendships and local
communities we continue to accompany those who
are facing fears that are not related to the
coronavirus; those who are struggling with a
relationship break-down, and financial anxiety, and
those who are terminally ill, and those who care for

We live in an age when it seems possible to believe
that modern opportunities, education, medical care
and technology can deliver us the happiness we
seek. When we are faced with a fear that threatens
to overwhelm us, we become aware of the fact that
we remain vulnerable creatures, dependent on a
God who is greater than us for everything, including
every breath that we take. Without God this
vulnerability is a problem to be suffered and solved.
In personal and shared faith in Jesus Christ we
understand that the reality of human vulnerability is
a gift that opens us to receive and to give love.

May these difficult days be for all the people of our
land an opportunity to realise anew that when we
dwell in the “House of the Lord” here on earth,
goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our

Perhaps our mantra for these difficult days can be
our psalm for today prayed as a simple repeated
line when you are not sure what to pray:

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall

Then as a communal prayer:

The Lord is our shepherd; there is nothing we shall

Yours in Christ,
✠ Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland and NZCBC President
✠ Steve Lowe, Bishop of Hamilton and NZCBC Secretary
✠ John Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington
✠ Paul Martin, Bishop of Christchurch
✠ Michael Dooley, Bishop of Dunedin
✠ Michael Gielen, Auxiliary Bishop of Auckland