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ATLANTA — Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer has issued an order instructing priests not to sign parishioner letters requesting exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine.
The following excerpt is from a memo sent: Hartmayer writes that the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which defends morals and doctrine, has deemed the vaccines “morally acceptable“. “…from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good,” the Congregation goes on to say. “In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”
Because of that determination, “the church cannot provide a general exemption,” said Hartmayer, who is vaccinated and has encouraged parishioners to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
A copy of this excerpt was provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the office of communications. People who are unvaccinated in Georgia are hesitating about getting the vaccine, which has led to an alarming rise in hospitalizations. Health officials and hospital workers have been overwhelmed by a tsunami of sick as a result of the highly contagious delta variant.
In Georgia, the state passed a somber landmark last Friday: 20,000 deaths caused by the virus.
There are many businesses, government agencies and places of worship in Georgia that require their employees to be vaccinated. A few restaurants and arts venues are also requiring diners and attendees to present proof of immunization. Students, faculty, and staff at Metro Atlanta’s HBCUs, as well as the region’s largest private colleges and universities, are also required to be vaccinated this semester.
Medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine are being considered by some organizations for their employees, students and guests.
The communications office says people can request personal exemptions, but they will need to do so without a church signature.
Pope Francis appeared in a video in October calling for people to get the vaccine. The video was created by the nonprofit Ad Council and COVID Collaborative.
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” the pope said in the message, according to Reuters. “They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together,”.
The companies that mandate vaccines for their employees indicate that people who fail to do so may also face financial penalties or termination.
Delta Air Lines, for example, which requires new hires to voluntarily get vaccinated, and plans to charge unvaccinated employees an extra $200 a month beginning in November as part of the company’s health care plans.
The Atlanta-based carrier will also require unvaccinated employees to be tested weekly for the coronavirus starting Sept. 12 while cases are high.
A spokesman for Delta said the company will consider religious exemptions and expects to provide more detail about that process in the weeks ahead.
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