A COVID-19 special: Delicate matter

Peter Loy Chong. Picture: FILE

Churches should be a place that welcomes everyone. Whether you’re rich or poor, sinful or righteous despite your race or sexual orientation a church that is faithful to Jesus and founded in Jesus should welcome everybody.

The Head of the Catholic Church Archbishop Peter Loy Chong made these comments this week as Fiji prepares to open places of worship next month. Archbishop Chong says the church needs to be inclusive.

“As a church we should be inclusive and that means a church should welcome everybody,” Archbishop Chong said.

“Despite your race, whether you’re poor or rich, whether you’re holy or sinful or whatever your sexual orientation as a faith-based institution a church founded on Jesus or as Christians these are the values that we need to hold close to our hearts.

“We understand that we have to contribute to a common good which is health, the health of everybody. We need to contribute to that and part of contributing to health is not only during this pandemic. In the past, we have had to get vaccinated so this is a difficult thing to negotiate.”

Archbishop Chong says they are hoping to hold discussions with the government to allow unvaccinated Fijians to access houses of worship as well.

“I’ve requested the Ministry of Health and government to give us clear instructions. So far we have yet to receive clear instructions and the only instruction was made by the Prime Minister in a press release.

“Is there a middle ground where we can respect religious values while at the same time protecting other people’s health which means getting vaccinated or practising very strict COVID measures? “For me, I would like to explore if there’s a possibility to respect people’s decisions but at the same time practice very strict protocols.

“Even our office in the Vatican City encourages church members to be vaccinated. We have therefore encouraged everybody to get vaccinated because it’s one of the best ways to stop the spread of the virus and promote everyone’s good health.

“But for some people, it’s because of personal reasons and reasons known to them they choose not to get vaccinated. They therefore should still follow very strict guidelines and protocols so that they don’t pass on the virus.

“It’s a very delicate issue,” he said.

Archbishop Chong is expected to meet the Ministry of Health officials and Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport Faiyaz Koya on Monday to discuss this sensitive issue in detail.

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