SCRANTON – In both a video message and a letter to the faithful at the beginning of July, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera stressed the importance of continuing safety protocols with the threat of COVID-19 still very present in our communities.

“With the virus surging in many parts of our country, we need to be more vigilant than ever in exercising precautionary measures to keep us all safe. While all parishes in the Diocese of Scranton are now able to hold in-person Masses, this is not the time for us to let down our guard. I want to thank you – our faithful people, as well as all of our pastors and parish life coordinators – for your continued patience in following all of the safety protocols in your parishes,” the bishop wrote.

The bishop said wearing masks at Mass and maintaining proper social distancing is really an act of charity towards neighbors.

“As a people of God, we always need to think about how our actions impact others. Maintaining proper social distancing and wearing face masks are vital in preventing the spread of this virus. They are also acts of charity, helping to safeguard our fellow parishioners, our community and ourselves. Right now, we do not have a vaccine for the coronavirus, but we do have something that is just as important: We have the ability to help keep each other safe,” he added.

The bishop also thanked people who have stepped-up and helped their parishes stay safe. He specifically highlighted those who volunteer to make sure people are properly welcomed and healthy and those who sanitize churches after each Mass.

The bishop also emphasized the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and while many have been able to participate in livestream Masses, there is no substitute for being in a church.

“While our capacity for attendance might be temporarily limited – the love of God knows no limits. If nothing else, this difficult time has helped to emphasize to us how important the communal celebration of the Eucharist is,” Bishop Bambera explained.

He added, “While the Sunday obligation to attend Mass remains suspended at this time – you and I know very well that nothing can replace coming together as a faith-filled community for the shared celebration of the Eucharist. These past months have reminded us that for as challenging and difficult as the journey may have been, Jesus alone is our light, our hope and our strength.”

Noting that many have been feeling burdened and stressed these last few months, faithful people always manage to find a hopeful way forward through the grace of God and Jesus’ abiding presence in our lives.

“As we continue to re-gather as a local church week-by-week, may the Good News of Jesus be the message that we spread far and wide. It alone has the power to provide hope and to impart lasting peace to those who open their lives and hearts to Jesus,” Bishop Bambera noted.