Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A year ago, as we prepared to celebrate Ash Wednesday and our annual observance of Lent, we were just beginning to come to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic that was quickly enveloping our world. By the end of the Third Sunday of Lent – barely mid-way through this season of conversion and hope – life seemed to come to a standstill. We were forced to embrace traditional Lenten observances in unique ways from our homes instead of in our churches. We struggled to find a way forward in the midst of global suffering, pain and uncertainty.

For me, one of the first glimmers of hope that we experienced during those initial days of the pandemic emerged from a unique and singular moment in the life of our Church that you may recall. On the evening of Friday, March 27, 2020, on the threshold of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis walked alone into an empty, rain-slicked Saint Peter’s Square for an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Eucharistic Blessing of the people of the City of Rome and of the entire world.

Reflecting upon the passage from Saint Mark’s gospel that found the disciples in a boat that was being tossed about by an intense storm and Jesus, asleep, with them in the boat, Pope Francis recounted the words of our Savior, “‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’”

The Holy Father continued, “Lord, you are calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. Your call reverberates urgently: ‘Be converted!’ Return to me with all your heart.’”

Brothers and sisters, this Lent the Lord extends the same invitation to us: “Be converted! Return to me with all your heart! Do not be afraid!”

This invitation is even more compelling, given what we have experienced during the past year. While countless numbers of us have known untold physical and emotional pain, loneliness and, in some instances, the grief that comes from the loss of those we love, our very ability to reflect upon the past twelve months is a powerful sign of God’s presence in our lives. Jesus has been and continues to be with us in the midst of the storm, consoling, sustaining and assuring us of his abiding love and mercy.

How vital it is that we use these sacred days of Lent to deepen our relationship with Jesus, who first called us to journey with him through faith! In his 2021 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis reflects upon this unique moment in human history, “In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet, Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to the God who patiently continues to care for his creation.”

Our hope is strengthened and our relationship with Jesus is deepened in a particular way through our embrace of the traditional disciplines of Lent, as noted in the sixth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel, proclaimed each year on Ash Wednesday. The simple practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving become profound reflections of our efforts to embrace the example of Jesus’ selfless love in our own lives.

On the First Sunday of Lent, we will once again welcome catechumens into the ranks of the elect; those from our midst who have begun the journey of conversion and who will soon experience the saving power of Jesus in the Easter mysteries of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Their “yes” to the Lord’s call gives us hope and should encourage us to recommit ourselves to the vows that were made at our own baptism. Their “yes” reminds us that we too are called to look beyond ourselves to something more in life.

Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist us in our response to the Lord’s invitation to conversion and renewal is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To provide for the celebration of this Sacrament in a generous manner, once again, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. While ensuring that every effort is made to continue to keep our people safe, on every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, February 22, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, March 22, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – or at a time that best suits the needs of a particular parish community.

My friends, Lent calls us during these challenging times to recognize that God is ever faithful and present, particularly amid the storms that envelop our fragile world and broken lives. May we be humble enough to open our lives to God’s merciful presence and walk with him on a life-giving journey of conversion and renewal.

Please know of my prayers for a fruitful observance of Lent.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

Statement of the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

January 20, 2021

As our Nation inaugurates its 46th President, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala D. Harris, I encourage the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton and all people of goodwill to join me in praying for our Nation and its new leaders.

At a time when our country is facing not only a global pandemic, but also division and hostility, we must all pray for peace and unity. No matter our differences, we are one human family, our brothers and sisters keepers.

As Catholics, we are called through Baptism to imitate the servant leadership of Jesus Christ. May our Merciful God grant all of our leaders the wisdom, courage and compassion to protect and defend religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the rights of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

Together, let us pray to our Heavenly Father that President Biden, a native son of Scranton, may have the strength and courage to carry out his duties and lead our nation in ways of peace.

 

Statement of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera

As Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, I am delighted to extend prayerful congratulations to Bishop-elect Larry J. Kulick, who has been appointed  by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to become the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg.

As a native of the Greensburg Diocese, Bishop-elect Kulick has proven to be a humble servant of the Lord Jesus. He will undoubtedly continue serving the faithful with a genuine and caring heart as he assumes his new ministry.

I join with the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton in praying for Bishop-elect Kulick.

Pope Francis Names Monsignor Larry Kulick of Diocese of Greensburg as Bishop of Greensburg

Msgr. Larry J. Kulick, the diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis appointed him bishop of Greensburg Dec. 18, 2020. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Greensburg)

December 18, 2020

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Monsignor Larry James Kulick as the Bishop of Greensburg. Monsignor Kulick is a priest of the Diocese of Greensburg who has been serving as Diocesan Administrator of the diocese since September 2020.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on December 18, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The Diocese of Greensburg has been a vacant see since July 2020 following the appointment of Bishop Edward C. Malesic to Cleveland.

Bishop-elect Kulick was born on February 24, 1966 in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, and ordained to the priesthood on May 16, 1992 for the Diocese of Greensburg. Monsignor Kulick graduated from Saint Joseph High School in Natrona Heights. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy (1988) and a Master’s degree in Theology (1992) from Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) from The Catholic University of America in Washington in 2012.

After ordination, Father Kulick was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg as parochial vicar where he served until 1995; he was assigned as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception parish in Irwin from 1995-1997. In 1997, he was named pastor at Parish of the Good Shepherd in Kent, where he served until 2004, and pastor at St. Joseph parish in New Kensington from 2004-2008.

From 1996-2001, Father Kulick served on the diocesan Priests’ Council as a consultant on priestly vocations. From 2008-2012, he served as co-episcopal master of ceremonies, co-director of the Office of Clergy Vocations and co-director of the Permanent Diaconate Office for the Diocese of Greensburg.

Since 2012, Bishop-elect Kulick has been pastor of Saint James parish in New Alexandria, while also serving as a judge, defender of the bond, and advocate in the diocesan tribunal. During the same period, he has also served as vicar general, moderator of the curia, and acting chancellor for the diocese. He received the title of Monsignor by his office as Vicar General of the Diocese of Greensburg on May 21, 2014. Bishop-elect Kulick has also served as a member of the Administrative Board for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and as chaplain for the Council of Catholic Women.

The Diocese of Greensburg is comprised of 3,334 square miles in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has a total population of 659,596 of which 126,649 are Catholic.

 

 

November 16, 2020

In response to the Holy See’s publication of its report on former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, issued the following statement:

“The long-awaited report from the Holy See is an important document that brings greater transparency and accountability to the decision-making process regarding Theodore McCarrick. I am grateful to Pope Francis for following through on his commitment to make public this two-year investigation, despite its difficult content. I believe it is critical that we have an honest accounting of what transpired.

This report is yet another reminder of the sin of sexual abuse within the Church. The release of this voluminous report has rightly sparked a wide range of emotions, ranging from shock to anger to frustration. Even one case of sexual abuse is one too many. No matter one’s rank, privilege or prestige, nothing gives them the right to abuse their power.

This report will no doubt be upsetting to those who have suffered sexual abuse, as well as their loved ones and friends, given the failures and missed opportunities that are outlined. I believe this report highlights and emphasizes the need for all of us to take seriously any rumor of abuse or improper behavior.

I remain committed to supporting all survivors of sexual abuse. I hope all people of good will join me in praying for healing and reconciliation within the Church. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton I encourage you to immediately contact law enforcement. Survivors are also encouraged to reach out to the Diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator.

 

 

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for our annual celebration of Respect Life Sunday on October 4, 2020, we do so at a moment that is unprecedented in its focus on care for the human person.

For over eight months, our world has waged war with a virus that has currently attacked more than 29 million people and has left close to a million deaths in its wake. In the process, we have engaged behavior that has isolated us one from another and prompted actions from wearing masks to shuttering churches, schools, stores and factories, all in an effort to protect and preserve human life. In the midst of such upheaval and pain, as a nation, we have also been forced to confront the ongoing reality of racism, which continues to raise its ugly head and tragically disregards the same lives that we are trying to protect from the global pandemic.

Ironically, these challenging realities that prompt us to focus on efforts to preserve and respect life continue to unfold in our own land amid a climate of polarization that has bitterly set lives against one another. And all of this division is fueled by an election cycle that only seems to complicate our search for truth and justice for all.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life commemoration is Live the Gospel of Life! Sadly, a reflection on the current reality of life in our land reveals that as a nation and people, we have yet to embrace and respect human life in its totality as we should. In an introductory letter to the US Bishops’ teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the Bishops quote Pope Francis’ words taken from his exhortation, Gaudete et exultate, as he addresses our role as disciples of Jesus in confronting the struggles of our time:

Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. … You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavor.

The call to holiness that the Holy Father references requires that we, as Catholics, stand firm in our respect and reverence for the human person as the very foundation of a moral vision for society. As such, in that same letter, the US Bishops affirm that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

The Bishops stress that “our efforts to protect the unborn remain as important as ever, for just as the Supreme Court may allow greater latitude for state laws restricting abortion, state legislators have passed statutes not only keeping abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy but opening the door to infanticide. Additionally, abortion contaminates many other important issues by being inserted into legislation regarding immigration, care for the poor, and health care reform.”

The upcoming election provides us with a vital platform through which we, as Catholics, can give voice to core Gospel values rooted in the dignity and worth of every human person, having been created in the image and likeness of God.

While Church leaders have often been accused of siding with one party or another, the fact remains that no one candidate perfectly reflects the broad and encompassing social and moral teachings of our Catholic Church. As such, it is incumbent upon us as Christians that, regardless of party affiliation, we thoughtfully and prayerfully vote for those candidates for office who not only personally reflect but clearly support legislation upholding our obligation to live the Gospel of Life.

In examining our consciences and in seeking to inform them in a responsible manner according to the tenants of our Catholic faith, may we be encouraged in our efforts by the words of Saint John Paul II in his encyclical, Christifideles Laici:

The right to health, to home, to work, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

Brothers and sisters, our responsibility as disciples of Jesus is clear. We are called to live the Gospel of Life. We do so, however, not solely by speaking of our resolve to respect human life or by self-righteously criticizing those whose beliefs may appear to be different than our own. We do so by treating one another with reverence, respect and dignity as children of God. We do so by serving the broken lives and hearts that God has placed in our midst, whomever they may be. And this year, in particular, we Live the Gospel of Life by exercising our right to vote for those candidates who best respect the dignity and worth of all those lives that will be entrusted to their care.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for our annual celebration of Respect Life Sunday on October 4, 2020, we do so at a moment that is unprecedented in its focus on care for the human person.

For over eight months, our world has waged war with a virus that has currently attacked more than 29 million people and has left close to a million deaths in its wake. In the process, we have engaged behavior that has isolated us one from another and prompted actions from wearing masks to shuttering churches, schools, stores and factories, all in an effort to protect and preserve human life. In the midst of such upheaval and pain, as a nation, we have also been forced to confront the ongoing reality of racism, which continues to raise its ugly head and tragically disregards the same lives that we are trying to protect from the global pandemic.

Ironically, these challenging realities that prompt us to focus on efforts to preserve and respect life continue to unfold in our own land amid a climate of polarization that has bitterly set lives against one another. And all of this division is fueled by an election cycle that only seems to complicate our search for truth and justice for all.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life commemoration is Live the Gospel of Life! Sadly, a reflection on the current reality of life in our land reveals that as a nation and people, we have yet to embrace and respect human life in its totality as we should. In an introductory letter to the US Bishops’ teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the Bishops quote Pope Francis’ words taken from his exhortation, Gaudete et exultate, as he addresses our role as disciples of Jesus in confronting the struggles of our time:

Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. … You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavor. 

The call to holiness that the Holy Father references requires that we, as Catholics, stand firm in our respect and reverence for the human person as the very foundation of a moral vision for society. As such, in that same letter, the US Bishops affirm that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

The Bishops stress that “our efforts to protect the unborn remain as important as ever, for just as the Supreme Court may allow greater latitude for state laws restricting abortion, state legislators have passed statutes not only keeping abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy but opening the door to infanticide. Additionally, abortion contaminates many other important issues by being inserted into legislation regarding immigration, care for the poor, and health care reform.”

The upcoming election provides us with a vital platform through which we, as Catholics, can give voice to core Gospel values rooted in the dignity and worth of every human person, having been created in the image and likeness of God.

While Church leaders have often been accused of siding with one party or another, the fact remains that no one candidate perfectly reflects the broad and encompassing social and moral teachings of our Catholic Church. As such, it is incumbent upon us as Christians that, regardless of party affiliation, we thoughtfully and prayerfully vote for those candidates for office who not only personally reflect but clearly support legislation upholding our obligation to live the Gospel of Life.

In examining our consciences and in seeking to inform them in a responsible manner according to the tenants of our Catholic faith, may we be encouraged in our efforts by the words of Saint John Paul II in his encyclical, Christifideles Laici:

The right to health, to home, to work, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. 

Brothers and sisters, our responsibility as disciples of Jesus is clear. We are called to live the Gospel of Life. We do so, however, not solely by speaking of our resolve to respect human life or by self-righteously criticizing those whose beliefs may appear to be different than our own. We do so by treating one another with reverence, respect and dignity as children of God. We do so by serving the broken lives and hearts that God has placed in our midst, whomever they may be. And this year, in particular, we Live the Gospel of Life by exercising our right to vote for those candidates who best respect the dignity and worth of all those lives that will be entrusted to their care.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

June 5, 2020

In the immediate days following the brutal killing of George Floyd, the world reacted with horror to the images of his struggle to breathe and to hold on to life. Countless numbers of individuals from throughout our country and world offered words of condemnation, sorrow and grief. I penned my name to a statement along with six other U.S. bishop chairmen of committees within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Peaceful protests ensued in cities and towns throughout our land with participants crying out for an end to the injustice of racism and the hatred associated with that sin.

For me, however, the message and power of this time of upheaval and pain were most vividly captured in the visit of Terrence Floyd to the makeshift memorial located at the site of his brother’s killing. Floyd knelt for a moment and then, surrounded by signs that simply said “Black Lives Matter,” rose and addressed the gathered crowd with these words, “My family is a peaceful family. My family is God-fearing. … Let’s do this another way. Do this peacefully, please.”

Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, reacts at a makeshift memorial at the spot where he was taken into custody in Minneapolis June 1, 2020. Demonstrations continue after a white police officer was caught on a bystander’s video May 25 pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

The combination of Terrence’s spoken message with those three words, “Black Lives Matter,” teach a lesson that we would all do well to sear into our minds and hearts. Floyd challenged the crowds to speak to the injustice of his brother’s death “peacefully,” echoing the very words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The silent, printed words proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” captured an essential component of the Gospel message. Black lives do matter. For black lives, like every life, are made in the image of our Creator. And as such, peace will only come to pass when every life is treated with respect and dignity as the gift of God that it is.

As I watched George Floyd’s brother continue to address that crowd in Minneapolis and challenge them to a peaceful way forward, I couldn’t help but wonder what so many of those who listened to his words were thinking. I wondered if many of them feared to walk in their neighborhoods simply because of the color of their skin. Considering our history, particularly in recent years, I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up as a young black man in America today.

It occurred to me at that moment, more than ever before, that Terrence Floyd’s call for peace in the face of the brutality and sin that so mercilessly snuffed out the life of his defenseless brother, far from being political or ideological as some might suggest, was nothing short of a plea for justice in our land. His words were a reminder to all of us that as a people who have proclaimed so boldly the absolute value of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, every life in between is just as deserving of respect and reverence.

We Christians are proud to assert our commitment to life. Sadly, however, we often lose our focus upon this noble cause – by the violence, looting and destructive elements that have infiltrated the peaceful efforts of so many who rightfully seek justice and equality – or by a host of other distractions that many of us do subtly or even unknowingly until we turn inward and examine ourselves. In turn, we can begin to pick and choose what is worthy of respect and what is not, at least in our own minds. Yet, nowhere in our faith tradition is it ever suggested that we are meant to determine who is worthy of redemption and who is not. That is a task left to God alone.

May we be humble enough in the face of division to admit our need for conversion as we seek to confront the evil of racism in our land. May we resolve at this moment in our lives and in our history as a nation to embrace the call of Isaiah the prophet to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks and so labor for God’s gifts of peace, reconciliation and unity. And may we finally begin to live with authenticity the one command of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

 

Catholic priests from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis join African American clergy June 2, 2020, to march and pray at the site where George Floyd was pinned down May 25 and died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s Reflection on George Floyd’s Death
June 5, 2020

In the immediate days following the brutal killing of George Floyd, the world reacted with horror to the images of his struggle to breathe and to hold on to life. Countless numbers of individuals from throughout our country and world offered words of condemnation, sorrow and grief. I penned my name to a statement along with six other U.S. bishop chairmen of committees within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Peaceful protests ensued in cities and towns throughout our land with participants crying out for an end to the injustice of racism and the hatred associated with that sin.

For me, however, the message and power of this time of upheaval and pain were most vividly captured in the visit of Terrence Floyd to the makeshift memorial located at the site of his brother’s killing. Floyd knelt for a moment and then, surrounded by signs that simply said “Black Lives Matter,” rose and addressed the gathered crowd with these words, “My family is a peaceful family. My family is God-fearing. … Let’s do this another way. Do this peacefully, please.”

Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, reacts at a makeshift memorial at the spot where he was taken into custody in Minneapolis June 1, 2020. Demonstrations continue after a white police officer was caught on a bystander’s video May 25 pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

The combination of Terrence’s spoken message with those three words, “Black Lives Matter,” teach a lesson that we would all do well to sear into our minds and hearts. Floyd challenged the crowds to speak to the injustice of his brother’s death “peacefully,” echoing the very words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The silent, printed words proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” captured an essential component of the Gospel message. Black lives do matter. For black lives, like every life, are made in the image of our Creator. And as such, peace will only come to pass when every life is treated with respect and dignity as the gift of God that it is.

As I watched George Floyd’s brother continue to address that crowd in Minneapolis and challenge them to a peaceful way forward, I couldn’t help but wonder what so many of those who listened to his words were thinking. I wondered if many of them feared to walk in their neighborhoods simply because of the color of their skin. Considering our history, particularly in recent years, I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up as a young black man in America today.

It occurred to me at that moment, more than ever before, that Terrence Floyd’s call for peace in the face of the brutality and sin that so mercilessly snuffed out the life of his defenseless brother, far from being political or ideological as some might suggest, was nothing short of a plea for justice in our land. His words were a reminder to all of us that as a people who have proclaimed so boldly the absolute value of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, every life in between is just as deserving of respect and reverence.

We Christians are proud to assert our commitment to life. Sadly, however, we often lose our focus upon this noble cause – by the violence, looting and destructive elements that have infiltrated the peaceful efforts of so many who rightfully seek justice and equality – or by a host of other distractions that many of us do subtly or even unknowingly until we turn inward and examine ourselves. In turn, we can begin to pick and choose what is worthy of respect and what is not, at least in our own minds. Yet, nowhere in our faith tradition is it ever suggested that we are meant to determine who is worthy of redemption and who is not. That is a task left to God alone.

May we be humble enough in the face of division to admit our need for conversion as we seek to confront the evil of racism in our land. May we resolve at this moment in our lives and in our history as a nation to embrace the call of Isaiah the prophet to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks and so labor for God’s gifts of peace, reconciliation and unity. And may we finally begin to live with authenticity the one command of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

 

“As time unfolds, people coming back into normal activities
is probably going to happen a little more slowly than some might expect.
We will do all that we can to facilitate our return to Mass,
but ultimately must provide for the safety of the people God has given to our care.”
—Bishop Joseph C. Bambera—

With the national and statewide conversation regarding the COVID-19 pan- demic now focused on “reopening” businesses, many people in the Diocese of Scranton are wondering when the suspension of public Masses will be lifted.

While thankful for the technology that has kept parishes connected for the last six weeks, the Diocese of Scranton fully recognizes the faithful’s strong desire to return to parishes and to receive the Eucharist – which is our Spiritual life-blood.

Diocesan leadership is currently discussing ways to safely return to sacramental life – even if on a limited basis. Relying on guidance from the state and federal governments, as well as healthcare professionals, we are committed to safely and prudently resuming worship.

While specific details of “when” and “how” public Masses will resume are still being determined, the following things will be important for parishioners to consider:

The general dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will remain in place.

Regardless of when restrictions are lifted in a specific region of Pennsylvania, there will understandably be people, especially people 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 play a part. The faithful are encouraged to keep the Sabbath holy by participating in a parish livestream Mass or utilizing Catholic Television.

Livestreaming opportunities should continue due to attendance limitations

Recognizing that as regions of the Commonwealth initially transition from Governor Tom Wolf’s “red phase” to “yellow phase,” there will still be guidelines on the attend- ance numbers for any public gatherings. No one should expect to be able to attend Mass with regularity, so parishes that are currently livestreaming Masses will be encouraged to continue doing so.

Social distancing will be maintained.

Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

Expect that 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. As required by Pennsylvania state guidelines, parishioners would be required to wear a mask and anyone who is showing any symptoms of sickness will be told to stay home. Social gatherings before or after Mass will also not be permitted.

Liturgical changes will be in place.

Just like when the coronavirus started surfacing in Pennsylvania in March, the Diocese of Scran- ton established guidelines for the distribution of Holy Communion and exchanging the Sign of Peace without physical contact. Similar guide- lines will also be established as any individual church would be allowed to begin worship again.

Safety concerns, in addition to the virus itself, will determine the timeline.

During Mass on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, Pope Francis prayed for prudence as com- munities begin lifting their lockdowns. The Holy Father said, “At this time, when we are beginning to receive instructions for coming out of quarantine, we pray that the Lord would give his people – all of us – the grace of prudence and obedience to the in- structions 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. As the Diocese moves forward it requests that parishioners stay informed and stay flexible to any updates.

By working together, the Diocese of Scranton is hopeful that people will soon be able to re- turn to our churches, even if in a limited capacity, with the important understanding that things will not immediately be going back to normal.

Planificación para el futuro: qué esperar cuando se reanuden las masas públicas

 

“A medida que transcurra el tiempo, las personas que vuelvan a sus actividades normales probablemente sucederán un poco más lentamente de lo que algunos podrían esperar. Haremos todo lo posible para facilitar nuestro regreso a la misa, pero en última instancia debemos garantizar la seguridad de las personas que Dios ha dado a nuestro cuidado “.
—Obispo Joseph C. Bambera—

Con la conversación nacional y estatal sobre la pandemia de COVID-19 ahora centrada en “reabrir” negocios, muchas personas en la Diócesis de Scranton se preguntan cuándo se levantará la suspensión de las Misas públicas. Aunque agradecida por la tecnología que ha mantenido a las parroquias conectadas durante las últimas seis semanas, la Diócesis de Scranton reconoce plenamente el fuerte deseo de los fieles de regresar a las parroquias y recibir la Eucaristía, que es nuestra sangre espiritual. El liderazgo diocesano actualmente está discutiendo formas de regresar de manera segura a la vida sacramental, incluso de forma limitada. Confiando en la orientación de los gobiernos estatales y federales, así como de los profesionales de la salud, estamos comprometidos a reanudar la adoración de manera segura y prudente. Si bien los detalles específicos de “cuándo” y “cómo” se reanudarán las Misas públicas aún se están determinando, lo siguiente será importante para los feligreses a tener en cuenta:

  1. La dispensación general de la obligación de la misa dominical permanecerá en su lugar. Independientemente de cuándo se levanten las restricciones en una región específica de Pensilvania, es comprensible que haya personas, especialmente personas en grupos vulnerables o en riesgo, que sientan que es más seguro quedarse en casa que asistir a misa. Límites potenciales en el tamaño de la multitud que están permitidos En las parroquias también jugará un papel importante. Se alienta a los fieles a santificar el sábado participando en una misa en vivo en la parroquia o utilizando la televisión católica.
  2. Las oportunidades de transmisión en vivo deben continuar debido a las limitaciones de asistencia. Reconociendo que a medida que las regiones de la Commonwealth inicialmente pasan de la “fase roja” al “fase amarilla” del gobernador Tom Wolf, todavía habrá pautas sobre los números de asistencia para cualquier reunión pública. Nadie debería esperar poder asistir a misa con regularidad, por lo que se animará a las parroquias que actualmente transmiten en vivo misas a que continúen haciéndolo.
  3. Se mantendrá el distanciamiento social. Espere que la guía de distancia social recomendada de seis pies deba respetarse al entrar y salir de una iglesia, así como en lo que respecta a los asientos y una posible procesión de comunión. Como lo exigen las pautas estatales de Pensilvania, los feligreses deberán usar una máscara y cualquier persona que muestre algún síntoma de enfermedad tendrá que quedarse en casa. Las reuniones sociales antes o después de la misa tampoco serán permitidas.
  4. Los cambios litúrgicos estarán en su lugar. Al igual que cuando el coronavirus comenzó a aparecer en Pensilvania en marzo, la Diócesis de Scranton estableció pautas para la distribución de la Sagrada Comunión y el intercambio del Signo de la Paz sin contacto físico. También se establecerán pautas similares, ya que cualquier iglesia individual podría comenzar a adorar nuevamente.
  5. Las preocupaciones de seguridad, además del virus en sí, determinarán la línea de tiempo. Durante la misa del martes 28 de abril de 2020, el Papa Francisco oró por prudencia a medida que las comunidades comienzan a levantar sus bloqueos. El Santo Padre dijo: “En este momento, cuando comenzamos a recibir instrucciones para salir de la cuarentena, oramos para que el Señor le dé a su pueblo, a todos nosotros, la gracia de la prudencia y la obediencia a las instrucciones para que la pandemia no vuelve “. A medida que se desarrolle este proceso, sin duda habrá desafíos, pero la seguridad de nuestra comunidad seguirá siendo el punto de referencia. A medida que la Diócesis avanza, solicita que los feligreses se mantengan informados y sean flexibles a cualquier actualización.

Al trabajar juntos, la Diócesis de Scranton tiene la esperanza de que las personas pronto puedan regresar a nuestras iglesias, incluso si tienen una capacidad limitada, con el importante entendimiento de que las cosas no volverán a la normalidad de inmediato.

 

 

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
March 25, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Four weeks ago today, Lent began with the celebration of Ash Wednesday and its cherished invitation to rend our hearts and return to the Lord. We embraced this holy season of penance, sacrifice and conversion, hoping and praying that as Lent annually carries us to Holy Week and Easter, our lives of faith would be renewed and reflect a bit more clearly the life and love of Jesus. On Ash Wednesday, none of us could have imagined the depth of sacrifice that the current health crisis would demand of us.

On March 16, 2020, I suspended the celebration of all public Masses in the eleven counties of the Diocese of Scranton. While so many of you expressed how heartbroken you were with this decision, you embraced it willingly in a spirit of faith and self-sacrifice in order that the Church could do its part in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

Today, sadly, we are called to sacrifice even further for the sake of serving one another in our battle against this dreaded disease. The cherished Liturgies of Holy Week and Easter – Palm Sunday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday Masses – will all be celebrated privately, without all of you, the blessed faithful who make up the Diocese of Scranton – filling our churches as you have always done during these most sacred days. The Chrism Mass will be deferred to a later date when the current health crisis has passed.

While this ongoing pandemic is calling us to be socially distant from one another, it does not mean we need to be spiritually distant. I invite you and your family to join me in prayer as we renew our efforts to turn to the Lord. While not open to the public, all of our Holy Week liturgies at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton will be broadcast on CTV: Catholic Television and live-streamed on the Diocese of Scranton’s website and social media platforms. Many parishes will also plan to broadcast their own Masses.

As we seek to come to terms with this latest casualty of the coronavirus, I want to share with you a recent encouraging directive of the Holy See regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, firmly rooted in the traditions of our Church. With the increasing difficulty for individuals to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation due to the current health crisis, the faithful 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; and the resolution to go to confession as soon as possible when this health crisis subsides. Please take consolation in knowing that while you may not have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the power and love of God is far greater than we can imagine. For all who sincerely express contrition, your sins are forgiven.

My friends, in so many respects, it seems that the disciplines of Lent will last a bit longer this year as we continue to sacrifice, to pray and to serve in unimaginable ways. Yet, through God’s grace, I hope that we can begin to see one of the blessings of this difficult moment in our lives. In the midst of this crisis, so many of you are responding generously and courageously to the Gospel invitation to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, sacrificing our own well-being and serving selflessly the lives that God places in our own.

As we confront the uncertainty of our future, may we recognize that our greatest hope has always been rooted in our embrace of the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection – the heart of our faith as Christians. Good Friday, with its suffering and pain, always yields to power of Easter and its promise of life and peace! So too will this moment in our lives.

May God continue to bless you and your family and keep you safe.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

Solemnidad de la Anunciación del Señor
25 de marzo de 2020

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Hoy hace cuatro semanas, la Cuaresma comenzó con la celebración del Miércoles de Ceniza y su apreciada invitación a someter nuestros corazones y regresar al Señor. Abrazamos este santo tiempo de penitencia, sacrificio y conversión, esperando y orando para que, como Cuaresma anualmente nos lleve a la Semana Santa y a la Pascua, nuestra vida de fe se renovará y reflejara un poco más claramente la vida y el amor de Jesús. El Miércoles de Ceniza, ninguno de nosotros podría haber imaginado la profundidad del sacrificio que la actual crisis de salud nos demandaría.

El 16 de marzo de 2020, suspendí la celebración de todas las misas públicas en los once condados de la Diócesis de Scranton. Mientras tantos de ustedes expresaron lo desconsolados que estaban con esta decisión, la abrazaron voluntariamente con espíritu de fe y sacrificio para que la Iglesia pudiera hacer su parte en la reducir de la propagación del coronavirus.

Hoy, lamentablemente, estamos llamados a sacrificarnos aún más por el bien de servirnos unos a otros en nuestra batalla contra esta temida enfermedad. Las preciadas Liturgias de Semana Santa y Pascua – Domingo de Ramos, la Misa de la Cena del Señor seguida de la Adoración del Santísimo Sacramento, la Celebración de la Pasión del Señor, la Gran Vigilia de Pascua y misas dominicales de Pascua – se celebrarán en privado, sin todos ustedes, los fieles que conforman la Diócesis de Scranton, llenando nuestras iglesias como siempre lo han hecho durante estos días más sagrados. La Misa crismal se aplazará a una fecha posterior cuando haya pasado la actual crisis de salud.

Si bien esta pandemia en curso nos llama a estar socialmente distantes unos de otros, no significa que debamos estar espiritualmente distantes. Los invito a ustedes y a su familia a unirse a mí en la oración mientras renovamos nuestros esfuerzos para volvernos al Señor. Aunque no están abiertas al público, nuestras liturgias de Semana Santa en la Catedral de San Pedro en Scranton se transmitirán en CTV: canal Católico y se transmitirá en vivo en el sitio web de la Diócesis de Scranton y plataformas de medios sociales. Muchas parroquias también planean transmitir sus propias Misas.

Al tratar de llegar a un acuerdo con esta última consecuencia del coronavirus, quiero compartir con ustedes una reciente directiva alentadora de la Santa Sede sobre el Sacramento de la Reconciliación, firmemente arraigada en las tradiciones de nuestra Iglesia. Con la creciente dificultad para que las personas reciban el Sacramento de la Reconciliación debido a la actual crisis de salud, se recuerda a los fieles que al tener una contrición perfecta, se puede recibir el perdón de los pecados aparte de ir a la confesión.  La contrición perfecta requiere las siguientes tres cosas: un amor a Dios por encima de todo; un deseo sincero de perdón del pecado; y la resolución de ir a confesarse lo antes posible cuando esta crisis sanitaria desaparezca. Por favor, sientan consuelo al saber que si bien tal vez no tengan acceso al Sacramento de la Reconciliación, el poder y el amor de Dios son mucho mayores de lo que podemos imaginar. Por todos los que expresan sinceramente contrición, tus pecados son perdonados.

Mis amigos, en tantos aspectos, parece que las disciplinas de cuaresma durarán un poco más este año a medida que sigamos sacrificando, orando y sirviendo de maneras inimaginables. Sin embargo, por medio de la gracia de Dios, espero que podamos comenzar a ver una de las bendiciones de este difícil momento en nuestra vida. En medio de esta crisis, muchos de ustedes están respondiendo generosa y valientemente a la invitación evangélica a seguir los pasos de Jesús, sacrificando su propio bienestar y sirviendo desinteresadamente la vida que Dios pone en la nuestra.

Al afrontar la incertidumbre de nuestro futuro, reconozcamos que nuestra mayor esperanza siempre ha estado arraigada en nuestro abrazo del misterio del sufrimiento, la muerte y la resurrección de Jesús, el corazón de nuestra fe como cristianos. ¡El Viernes Santo, con su sufrimiento y dolor, siempre cede al poder de la Pascua y a su promesa de vida y paz! También lo hará este momento en nuestras vidas.

Que Dios los siga bendiciendo a ustedes y a su familia y los mantenga a salvo.
¡San José, reza por nosotros!

Fielmente tuyo en Cristo,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Reverendísimo Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Obispo de Scranton