Access to Churches for private, individual prayer:

  • At this time, the decision to maintain access to a parish Church remains a decision of the Pastor or the Parish Life Coordinator.
  • Some Churches, particularly in the eastern region of our Diocese, have already opted to close their doors completely. In such instances, Bishop Bambera will support these decisions.
  • Pastors and Parish Life Coordinators who have chosen to maintain access may continue to do so at this time but must regularly assess the usage by members of the faithful. Care must be taken to cordon off areas where the faithful can pray in order to facilitate daily sanitization. In addition to sanitization, signage must remind parishioners of CDC directives regarding hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer as well as the maximum number of individuals who can gather at one time (10 or less). If a Church is unable to reasonably sanitize those areas frequented by parishioners as well as door handles, etc., or maintain CDC authorized numbers of visitors for prayer, it should be closed immediately.

All public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours, devotional prayers and processions, indoors or outdoors, are suspended.

It has been brought to Bishop Bambera’s attention that a number of parishes continue to defy federal, state and diocesan directives by inviting parishioners to gather for particular prayer opportunities. Such gatherings are to cease immediately. Moreover, “private masses” should not include members of the parish who may be present in the Church for individual private prayer.

Funerals:

  • 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.

Sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick:

  • All public gatherings for the celebration of Confessions 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 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.

Sacrament of Matrimony: All weddings scheduled in the Diocese of Scranton 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. Priests, Deacons and Parish Life Coordinators are encouraged to speak to each couple and share this information with them and if necessary assist them in the rescheduling of the wedding.

Holy Week:

  • All directives regarding the celebration of Holy Week liturgies released on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 remain in place, with the following exception.
  • The distribution of palms on Palm Sunday is prohibited. While time honored and appreciated by many members of the faithful, the distribution of palms in any way risks the unnecessary spread of the coronavirus.

While these directives will no doubt further stretch our parish communities, they are offered following a significant amount of consultation with our Deans, Episcopal Vicars and a number of other pastors who have shared their concerns during the past few days. Sadly, over the weekend, we learned of the first virus-related death of a priest from the Diocese of Brooklyn. Numerous priests and at least one bishop in the United States have tested positive for the virus. These directives are being enacted for the sole purpose of keeping you as safe as possible.

 

Diocese of Scranton Directives for the Private Liturgies of Holy Week 2020

 

On Monday, March 16, 2020, Bishop Bambera suspended the celebration of Masses that are open to the public and all public gatherings in parishes and worship sites in the Diocese of Scranton until further notice.  While priests are directed to continue offering private, non-public Masses for the People of God and for the intention of the day, there have been additional concerns raised regarding the private celebration of Holy Week liturgies.  The following guidelines are offered for Holy Week liturgies that are celebrated privately and for Holy Week liturgies that are celebrated privately but are live-streamed or recorded for online viewing.  A private Mass is offered by the priest only with one other person present, preferably a deacon, acting as the server and reader.  Masses that are live-streamed or recorded could even include an organist or cantor.  Since many Catholics typically visit churches for private prayer during this week and especially on Good Friday, pastors and parish life coordinators are strongly advised to monitor potential crowds in churches and to display signage reminding people about current health precautions and social distancing guidelines. Given the evolving directions from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these guidelines regarding access to our churches by the faithful for private prayer may need to be modified in the future.

FRIDAY ABSTINENCE

Bishop Bambera has granted a dispensation from the obligation to abstain from meat for this Friday, March 27, 2020 and next Friday, April 4, 2020. The obligation of fasting and abstinence still applies on Good Friday, April 10, 2020.

PERFECT CONTRITION

With the increasing difficulty for individuals to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation due to the current health crisis, the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton are reminded that by having perfect contrition one can receive the forgiveness of sins, apart from going to confession.  

Perfect contrition requires the following three things:

  • A love of God above all else
  • A sincere desire for the forgiveness from sin
  • The resolution to go to confession as soon as possible when this health crisis subsides

PLENARY INDULGENCE

His Holiness, Pope Francis, has also granted a plenary indulgence under specific conditions.

The faithful who qualify for a plenary indulgence during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Those suffering from the coronavirus illness
  • Health care workers, family members, and others caring for those with the coronavirus (exposing themselves to the virus)

The faithful must do at least one of the following:

  • Unite yourself spiritually through the media in the celebration of the Holy Mass
  • Recite the Rosary
  • Pious practice of the Way of the Cross (or other forms of devotion)
  • Recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and a Hail Mary

The faithful must be willing to perform all of the following as soon as possible: (considered the three usual conditions for a plenary indulgence)

  • Going to Confession
  • Receiving Holy Communion
  • Praying for the intentions of Pope Francis 

PALM SUNDAY

  • The distribution of palms on Palm Sunday is prohibited. While time honored and appreciated by many members of the faithful, the distribution of palms in any way risks the unnecessary spread of the coronavirus. 

CHRISM MASS

  • The Chrism Mass is postponed to a later date. 

HOLY THURSDAY—EVENING MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

  • Whether offered privately or live-streamed, there is to be no Washing of the Feet ritual.
  • There is to be no solemn public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass.
  • Since there is no solemn public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Mass concludes in the usual way with Blessed Sacrament placed in the regular tabernacle.
  • The altar is stripped following the Holy Thursday liturgy. 

GOOD FRIDAY—COMMEMORATION OF THE LORD’S PASSION

  • The Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion is to be celebrated in parish churches if at all possible.
  • A special petition for the pandemic is to be included in the Solemn Intercessions (a chant setting can be found on the diocesan website under Parish Life/Worship).
  • If live-streaming or recording the service, consider spending some time with the camera focused on the cross during the Adoration of the Holy Cross for the personal veneration of the faithful watching.
  • Given current CDC regulations, Cross Walks and Living Stations are prohibited.
  • The cross used for the liturgy should not be accessible for individual acts of veneration (such as touching or kissing the cross) by anyone visiting the church for personal prayer.

HOLY SATURDAY—EASTER VIGIL

  • The Easter Vigil should not be celebrated privately without another person. It may be live-streamed for the faithful.
  • If celebrated, it must begin after sunset.
  • The Blessing of the Fire, Preparation of the Candle and Procession during the Solemn Beginning of the Vigil are omitted. The liturgy begins with the Paschal Candle being lit followed by the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) and then the Liturgy of the Word.   For the Baptismal Liturgy, the Litany of the Saints is omitted, and only the Renewal of Baptismal Promises is necessary.  The Sprinkling with Holy Water is to be omitted.  The Liturgy of the Eucharist then follows.
  • Regarding Catechumens and Candidates: the celebrations of the Sacraments of Initiation and the Reception into Full Communion with the Catholic Church are to be postponed until a later date.

EASTER SUNDAY

  • For private Masses with a priest alone, the Renewal of Baptismal Promises would be omitted.
  • The Sprinkling with Holy Water is to be omitted as a health precaution.
  • Easter water blessed at the Easter Vigil is not to be made available to the faithful at this time. 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • Since churches will be open for private prayer, it would be proper and appropriate to decorate for Easter in a simple way if the process can be done without bringing together a large group of parishioners.
  • There are to be no parish Easter basket blessings. Pastors and parish life coordinators are encouraged to offer parishioners resources for prayer and a blessing of Easter foods which can be found on the diocesan website (under Parish Life) or in the Book of Blessings #1701-1723.
  • Because some of the faithful may still try to attend these private liturgies of Holy Week and Easter, church doors must be locked and signs posted stating that because of the current health crisis these liturgies as well as the traditional period of adoration following the Holy Thursday liturgy are not open to the public.