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Church leaders urge us to 'recognise the joy' after a year of pain and hardship

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Religious leaders are urging the faithful to recognise the joy in their lives this Christmas after a “harrowing” year marked by the coronavirus crisis.

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“It’s been a year like no other. A year of anxieties. A year of isolation,” the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said.

“In such dark times, celebrating Christmas can seem out of place.”

But Christmas, which falls on Friday, is a time of hope and celebration and could be the circut breaker people need after a harrowing year, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies said.

“For most of us, we will just make it to the finish line and will be glad to see the back of 2020,” said Davies, who heads Australia’s largest Anglican diocese.

“We desperately need the joy of Christmas and the deeper meaning of this festival.

“The main thing we have we learned from COVID-19 is that we crave relationship with others without the frustration of social distancing and face masks.”

Christmas, Davies added, represents “the great unmasking of God”.

Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier said “it is good to pause and rejoice, taking hold again of the idea that Christmas is almost unimaginably good news” as it commemorates the birth of Christ.

“It is because of this truth that throughout the trials of this year we have nevertheless been able to cling to comfort and joy because of the promises of God and the certainty that he is faithful,” he said.

Similar sentiments were voiced by other churches around the country, including Uniting Church President Deidre Palmer who’s the most senior female church leader in Australia.

“The central message of Christmas is that we are loved,” she said.

“After such a difficult year, Christ’s invitation to love our neighbours through acts of compassion and hospitality is more timely than ever.”

Most Christmas services around the country this year will be conducted under COVID-19 restrictions on gathering numbers and singing imposed by state and territory governments.

CHRISTMAS CHURCH SERVICE RESTRICTIONS:

* Queensland

No limits on numbers for religious gatherings indoors or outdoors or singing but two-square-metre rule applies. Choirs must be four metres from audiences.

* NSW

The one-person-per-four-square-metre rule applies to places of worship. Singing and chanting not allowed.

* Victoria

No limits on numbers for religious gatherings indoors or outdoors but two-square-metre rule applies.

* South Australia

Place of worship must ensure attendees practice social distancing and two-square-metre rule applies.

* Western Australia

Places of worship can have up to 60 per cent capacity but are exempt from the two-square-metre rule.

* Tasmania

Between December 20-27, places of worship can have up to 75 per cent of seated capacity and two square metre rule applies.

* Northern Territory

Place of worship must ensure attendees practice social distancing and keep 1.5 metres away from each other.

* ACT

Place of worship must ensure attendees practice social distancing and keep 1.5 metres away from each other. Choirs must be at least two metres from audiences.

Names of church attendees in all jurisdictions must be recorded for contact tracing in case of an infection.

-AAP

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