As counties are moved into the yellow phase as part of Governor Wolf’s reopening plan, parishes and other entities of the Diocese of Scranton will need to be prepared to adopt the new guidelines. Some of our current sheltering restrictions will be lifted, but additional requirements will be in place for any public spaces.

We know this process will be gradual and with a priority to what we believe is best for the common good and for our communities, respecting life and the well-being of all.  We take extra care for the those designated as most vulnerable.

Please note that guidelines provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are fluid. They may vary by region and change with little advance notice.

Even though parishes will take reasonable precautions, and sanitize after each public event, there will still exist the risk of infection for anyone who attends as restrictions are eased.  No one should expect that they will be safer in church than in any other public place. We will all experience challenges and frustration as we navigate through these weeks and months ahead. Just as parishes will differ in terms of which phase they are in, parishes will implement guidance from the Diocese in ways that best fit your local circumstances.

  • The General Dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will remain in place
    There are understandably people especially in vulnerable or at-risk groups, who will feel it is safer to stay home than attend Mass. Potential limits on crowd sizes that are allowed in parishes will also make this dispensation necessary.
  • Livestreaming Opportunities should continue due to attendance limitations
    Since there are guidelines for the attendance numbers for any public gatherings, Catholic Television of the Diocese, and parishes, will continue livestreaming Masses and other faith experiences.
  • Social Distancing will be maintained
    The  recommended social distancing guideline of six feet will need to be respected when entering and leaving a church, as well as in regards to seating and a potential Communion procession. Parishioners will be required to wear a mask and anyone showing any symptoms of sickness will be told to stay home. Social gatherings before or after Mass cannot be permitted.
  • Liturgical changes will be in place
    Just like established guidelines for the distribution of Holy Communion and exchanging the Sign of Peace without physical contact, additional guidelines are now established as individual churches are being allowed to begin worship again
  • Safety concerns, in addition to the virus itself, will determine the timeline
    Pope Francis prayed for prudence as communities begin lifting their lockdowns.
    The Holy Father said, “At this time, we pray that the Lord would give his people – all of us – the grace of prudence and obedience to the instructions so that the pandemic does not return.” As this process unfolds, there will certainly be challenges but the safety of our community will remain the benchmark.

All guidance based on the Federal and State Publications.
The following protocols remain in place for all counties still in the Red Phase.

Access to Churches for Private, Individual Prayer

  • The decision to maintain access to a parish remains a decision of the Pastor or Parish Life Coordinator.
  • Some churches have already opted to close their doors completely, and their decision will be supported by the diocesan bishop.
  • Pastors and Parish Life Coordinators who have chosen to maintain access may continue to do so at this time but must follow all general prevention protocols for signage, distancing of six feet, sanitization, and restricting persons with symptoms.
  • If a Church is unable to reasonably sanitize or maintain CDC authorized numbers of visitors for prayer (in this phase, 10 people), it should be closed immediately.
  • A person who visits a church for private, individual prayer should wear a mask.


Status of Public Masses and Other Events

  • Suspension of Masses open to the public and all public gatherings in all diocesan parishes, worship sites, college campuses, chapels and health care facilities remains in effect for counties in the red phase.”
  • All public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours, devotional prayers and processions, indoors or outdoors, are suspended.
  • Private Masses should not include members of the parish who may be present in the church for individual private prayer.
  • During livestream Masses, a priest is permitted to have the assistance for a very limited number of people, including a deacon, lector, cantor and/or musician. The number of people should not exceed 10.


Sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick

  • All public gatherings for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the Anointing of the Sick, indoors or outdoors, are suspended.
  • In the gravest circumstances, priests may make themselves available for these sacraments, taking care to follow CDC guidelines for personal protection.
  • The faithful are encouraged to follow the directives of the Holy See regarding perfect contrition that have been communicated to you in our regular updates.


Sacrament of Matrimony

  • All weddings scheduled are to be postponed until further notice.
  • While churches may “hold open” the date of a scheduled wedding, whether the sacrament can be celebrated on that date will depend entirely on whether the restrictions have been lifted to the “yellow phase.”


Sacrament of Baptism

  • The celebration of Baptism is to be suspended for the health and safety of all.  In case of emergency (danger of death), the sacrament may be administered.



  • No funeral Masses or services, inclusive of those at funeral homes, are to be conducted.
  • Priests, Deacons and Parish Life Coordinators may conduct grave-side burial services when appropriate for immediate family members only, mindful of the CDC guidelines for public gatherings.
  • Provisions are to be made for the celebration of memorial Masses after the current healthcare crisis subsides, or the county transitions to the “yellow phase” when gatherings with a maximum capacity of 25 would be permitted.
  • The use of cemetery chapels for final committal services is suspended.

The following protocols pertain to all counties of the Diocese of Scranton in the Yellow Phase. While a parish may begin with a 25 person limit, it can welcome worshippers up to a 25% seating capacity limit whenever it is ready to do so.



  • Parishes can be open for individual, private prayer. Hours and times can be deter- mined by Pastor or Parish Life Coordinator and communicated to parishioners.
  • All general prevention protocols for signage, distancing of six feet, sanitization, and restricting persons with symptoms must be followed.
  • If a Church is unable to reasonably sanitize or maintain CDC authorized numbers of visitors for prayer, it should be closed immediately.
  • People who visit a church for private, individual prayer should wear masks and could be asked to follow any necessary directions regarding designated entrances and ex- its to help with social distancing.



  • The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended at this time.
  • Public Masses in diocesan parishes, worship sites, college campuses, chapels and healthcare facilities may resume provided they follow these directives and adhere to the attendance limits for this phase.
  • People who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are elderly or infirm are strongly encouraged to stay home, for their own health, and to avoid any risk of contracting the virus.
  • All guidelines and sanitization procedures for before, during and after Mass must be followed.
  • The gradual reopening of parishes and resuming public Masses is dependent on a parish’s readiness to execute the proper sanitization procedures and liturgical directives.
  • Parishes may schedule public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours or de- votional prayers but any attendance must observe the current limit and, given the desire of the faithful to attend, a reservation system may have to be implemented for attendees.
  • The recommendation is to begin with resuming daily Mass celebrations and eventually move to Sunday celebrations.
  • Outdoor Masses, that is, Masses celebrated in church parking lots are permitted if they respond to a pastoral need and proper social distancing measures are followed. The faithful must remain in their cars for Mass, but are to leave their cars for the reception of Holy Communion and return to their cars for the conclusion of Mass.
  • Parishes should continue to livestream Masses and other events to optimize the number of people who can participate.



  • The Sacrament of Penance will be made available to people. Individual confession is the ordinary manner of celebrating the Sacrament. Communal Penance Services are prohibited at this time.
  • As always, the priest should take great care to ensure that the conversation with the penitent remains absolutely confidential.
  • A priest can establish an area for confessions in an open area of the church or church hall, or a Reconciliation room with adequate space for distancing.
  • A church rectory cannot be used for confessions.
  • A priest confessor and the penitent should both wear a mask since by nature confession occurs in a close setting.
  • Confessions outside of the church may be offered – penitents remain in their cars with the car window open while the priest hears their confession from a six-foot distance.
  • Proper sanitization of any areas or surfaces touched by penitent is necessary after each confession.
  • The Sacrament of Penance cannot be celebrated by cell phone, FaceTime, Zoom or any other video conferencing technology. Cell phones and any other electronic devices (with the exception of a hearing aid) should also not be used to amplify the voice of either the confessor or penitent.
  • Even though the Sacrament of Penance is available, the faithful are encouraged to follow the directives of the Holy See regarding perfect contrition.
  • General Absolution is not permitted at this time.



  • Individual Anointing of the Sick remains permissible, but not communal celebrations.
  • Mindful of the restrictions at all area hospitals and nursing facilities, the priest should adhere to a facility’s policy.
  • In a hospital, priests should use all Personal Protective Equipment that is provided.
  • A doctor or nurse may not anoint a person if the priest is unable to enter the patient’s room. In this case, only the prayers, Apostolic Pardon, and blessing may be given.
  • For an Anointing of the Sick in a home, priests should practice meticulous handwashing. Face masks and gloves must be worn, and a cotton swab used to anoint the sick person with the Oil of the Sick. The cotton swab should be properly disposed of through burning or burying. Use hand sanitizer after the anointing, and upon returning home, remove and launder your clothes and take a warm shower.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Communion are not permitted to take Communion to the homebound/hospitals/nursing homes until the county is in the “green phase.”



  • The Order for Celebrating Matrimony within and without Mass is permitted.
  • The maximum of people allowed inside church to attend a wedding includes the priest, any musicians and photographers.
  • All wedding guests (not bride and groom) must follow social distancing guidelines, unless they are immediate family living under one roof.
  • All guidance from before, during and after Mass must be followed.
  • For the “Celebration of Matrimony,” the priest should stand behind the altar and the bride and groom should stand in front of the altar, to allow for social distancing.
  • The wedding rings should not be handled by others (ring bearer, maid of honor, best man) prior to the wedding couple giving them to each other.
  • The faithful must wear masks during the service.
  • There should be no receiving line or gatherings at the conclusion of the ceremony. Guests must depart using social distancing.
  • If any type of program is to be used at the wedding, each guest must get their own individual copy and must be responsible for taking it with them upon leaving.
  • Priests, Deacons and Parish Life Coordinators are encouraged to speak with each couple in advance to share this relevant information.
  • Even if a wedding date is scheduled while a couple is in the “yellow phase,” if a particular county or region regresses into the “red phase,” the restrictions of that phase may require further postponement.



  • Communal baptisms are not allowed at this time. The Sacrament of Baptism is permitted only for one child at a time, unless those to be baptized are immediate family members.
  • Social distancing and group size guidelines are still applicable during Baptism.
  • The priest or deacon and the faithful should wear a mask for the entire Baptism.



  • Funeral services, including funeral Masses, wakes and viewings may resume with fam- ilies and guests, so long as they don’t exceed the attendance limit and those gath- ered abide by social distancing requirements.
  • A funeral Mass for a COVID-19 parishioner is permitted. The casket should be closed prior to entering the church.
  • Parishes should inform funeral directors of current church attendance limit, the liturgi- cal guidelines for funerals, and coordinate procedures such as encouraging members of the same household to sit together, social distancing for the arrival and departure, reception of Holy Communion etc.
  • Family and friends of the deceased should be seated in church first before bringing the casket or urn inside. Appropriate social distance between members of the same households is to be respected, especially when entering and leaving church.
  • It is recommended that the Introductory Rites of the Funeral Mass (Sprinkling with Holy Water, Placing of the Pall, Placing of the Christian Symbols) take place after everyone has been seated in church and the casket/urn is placed at the foot of the sanctuary.
  • It is encouraged to have members of the same household place the pall on the casket.
  • All guidance from before, during and after Mass must be followed, including the omission of the Offertory Procession.
  • Since the procession to the cemetery usually follows the funeral, it is recommended that the distribution of Holy Communion take place within the Mass. Appropriate social distancing during the reception of Holy Communion at funerals will need to be coordinated by the parish and the funeral director.
  • The priest should wear a mask for the distribution of Holy Communion and the Final Commendation.  The faithful should wear masks.
  • The pall is to be removed from the casket by the funeral director before processing down the aisle and out of church.
  • Memorial Masses for individuals who died during the stay-at-home orders may also take place as long as the number of people who gather does not exceed the established limits. Live streaming of these services is a possibility, if the family desires, to allow others attend remotely.
  • The use of cemetery chapels for final committal services remains suspended.



  • The Elect who did not receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil may be initiated by their pastor if they are comfortable with returning to church.
  • As a parish determines how to establish its process for the faithful to return to Mass, the Elect and Candidates could be invited as one of the first groups for a Sunday Mass.
  • Special consideration should be given to offer these sacraments during a Sunday livestream Mass so that members of the parish community can participate virtually.
  • Only one member of the Elect or Candidate can receive the Sacraments of Initiation at a given Mass, unless they are members of the same household.
  • An individual Mass with the Elect’s family, sponsor and the parish R.C.I.A. director can also be scheduled as long as the capacity does not exceed the attendance limit.



  • Pastors and Parish Life Coordinators may decide when to reschedule the parish’s First Holy Communion on an individual or “small group” basis, with the expressed permission of the parents and following attendance limits set for this phase. These celebrations may take place at a weekend or a weekday Mass and may be livestreamed for the parish to participate.
  • All guidance from before, during and after Mass must be followed.
  • For the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, the First Communion candidates should not bless themselves with holy water from the Baptismal Font nor should holy water be sprinkled on them.
  • The priest should wear a mask for the distribution of Holy Communion. The faithful should wear a mask while in attendance.
  • Family members are discouraged from remaining in the church to take photographs.



  • All Confirmations scheduled with Bishop Bambera in the Spring of 2020 have been cancelled. Parish Confirmations scheduled for Pentecost weekend this year will also need to be postponed.
  • Although Pastors and Sacramental Ministers have already been granted the faculty to ad-minister the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Easter Vigil or on Pentecost, given the current circumstances, this faculty is extended beyond Pentecost to the end of the Liturgical year on Saturday, November 28, 2020.
  • Pastors or sacramental ministers may offer an individual Confirmation Mass that does not exceed the established limits for attendance.
  • All guidance from before, during and after Mass must be followed.
  • The practice of having the Confirmation sponsor accompany the candidate and placing his or her hand on the candidate’s shoulder for the Anointing with Chrism is suspended at this time. The Confirmation sponsor is to remain in his or her pew during the Anointing and offers prayers for the candidate who is about to receive this sacrament.
  • The reception of Holy Communion should take place within the Confirmation Mass.
  • The priest should wear a mask for the Anointing and the Distribution of Holy Communion. The faithful should wear a mask while in attendance.
  • Family members are discouraged from remaining in the church to take photographs.