Canberra, Australia
AP

A Catholic archbishop has accused an Australian state government of inequitable pandemic rules by allowing up to 50 people into pubs while church congregations are limited to 10.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher on Thursday encouraged Catholics to sign a petition calling on the New South Wales government to treat churches the same as pubs, restaurants and cafes.

New pandemic restrictions that take effect on June 1 increase the number of customers that such commercial premises can hold from 10 to 50.

“Contrary to what has been said throughout this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practice of our faith,” the petition said.

Fisher said he was standing up for freedom of worship “when I see so many double standards being applied to people of faith.”

“We aren’t asking for special treatment, we are asking for equal treatment,” Fisher said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said state governments were working at their own pace in lifting pandemic restrictions.

New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state and has been the worst effected by COVID-19. New South Wales has recorded 48 of Australia’s 103 deaths. Catholicism is the largest denomination in Christian-majority Australia.