Message of His Excellency Bishop Joseph Bambera regarding health precautions for the celebration of Mass
March 07, 2020
On March 3, 2020, I released precautionary directives for the celebration of Mass related to widespread flu activity and the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has now surfaced within the territory of the Diocese of Scranton.
I now wish to address several additional concerns that have been raised by members of the faithful in our Diocese.
· The faithful are strongly encouraged at this time to receive the Body of Christ (via the Sacred Host) in the hand, but the right of each individual to receive on the tongue, as guaranteed by the universal law of the Church, remains in place and is to be respected. This request is made in order to curtail the spread of germs to the communicant, the minister of Holy Communion and other communicants.
· The faithful should refrain from the use of holy water upon entering and exiting our churches. Out of an abundance of caution, pastors should remove holy water from fonts in an effort to reduce the possible transmission of the virus.
· Parishes should make proper provisions for persons with celiac disease who cannot digest the gluten in wheat hosts or have other sensitivities.
· Elderly parishioners who are not sick but are concerned about being in crowded spaces are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.
These temporary changes come in addition to those announced on March 3, 2020:
· The distribution of the Precious Blood via the Chalice is temporarily suspended.
· The Sign of Peace will now be exchanged without physical contact.
· Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.
· Parishioners are also reminded that if they are sick, especially with flu-like symptoms, they should stay home for their own well-being and that of others. If parishioners are sick or suspect they are sick with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation.
Undoubtedly, other concerns may be raised as we confront the spread of the coronavirus. I would encourage vigilance and discretion by our priests and faithful to use common sense and good hygiene.
We pray for all the sick, in particular those suffering from the flu or from the coronavirus. We pray for the researchers trying to find a treatment and we pray for those who are caring for the sick throughout the world.
The Diocese will continue to monitor coronavirus and flu developments closely and will take further actions as necessary based on the guidance of national and local health agencies.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
+Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton