Archbishop Peter A Comensoli says he will continue working with other faith leaders on proposals that will allow for the vaccinated and unvaccinated to worship in person safely.

‘After many long months of isolation, continued forms of segregation within the community are deeply damaging. We cannot let this become the only way for COVID-accommodation,’ he told The Age, saying the government needs to be clear on when a unified gathering might happen.

Places of worship opened up across Victoria when the state’s COVID restrictions were eased from 6pm on Friday 29 October. It came as Victoria reached the 80 per cent threshold of adults with double vaccination.

Under the current roadmap, places of worship can now open to larger numbers of people who have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or are able to present a valid medical exemption. Those aged under 16 years of age may also attend (accompanied by their parent/s or an adult who must be fully vaccinated). Face coverings must be worn indoors and density quotients observed, which for indoor gatherings is one person per four square metres (DQ4) and when outdoors, one person per two square metres (DQ2), with a cap of 500.

If a person is not able to show evidence of double vaccination or does not hold a medical exemption, they may only participate in gatherings for those with an “unknown vaccination status”. At present, the maximum number allowed for these services is 30, both indoors and outdoors (DQ4).

Archbishop Comensoli has asked parishes to offer at least one (if not more) Masses for those with an “unknown vaccination status” per week to enable the faithful to attend.

The current restriction also means that separate liturgies must be organised for those with an unknown vaccination status for families of children receiving their first sacraments where one or both of the parents are not fully vaccinated.

The Archbishop said that while he encourages all Catholics to get vaccinated if they are able, faith communities must continue to support and comfort those in need, ‘and to be open to all regardless of who a person is or why they come.’