As previously announced, the decision was made to suspend public celebrations of Mass/liturgies throughout the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland during the coronavirus pandemic. Below are specific guidelines on the celebration of the sacraments and other answers to questions people may have during this unprecedented health crisis. Everyone must do his/her part to slow down this epidemic and protect the common good for the people of God. Check with your parish for information regarding the reduction of hours or closing of parish offices.
Keeping churches open for personal devotion
Churches may remain open ONLY if parishes have taken necessary precautions to perform routine maintenance and have the necessary staff to sanitize all hard surfaces and hymnals in the church, the vestibules, doorknobs and bathrooms at the end of each day that the church is open. These precautions also apply to perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapels. Here are some additional suggestions that were shared with parishes in order to help keep the church a safe place during this health crisis:
- Parishioners should make every effort to observe the highest standards of hygiene. That means not touching your face, using a tissue when wiping your nose and coughing into your sleeve while in church.
- Items that are in common areas and are regularly touched should be removed.
- Hymnals or music books should be removed from the pews.
- All paper, including comment/registration cards should be removed from pews.
- CDC and other governmental regulations should be followed for cleaning prior to opening the church.
Spiritual communion and televised Masses
Televised or livestreamed online Mass provides a daily opportunity for the faithful to remain connected to the Eucharist during this difficult time. Starting on March 18, 2020, the Diocese of Cleveland will livestream a private Mass at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The Mass can be viewed on the diocesan website.
Priests were asked to share with the faithful all opportunities to experience the Mass by way of livestreaming, EWTN, or other opportunities to share in the liturgy online during the next few weeks. These livestreamed or recorded Masses are meant to be private celebrations without a congregation. Additional information on such virtual liturgical opportunities can be found here.
All parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland are asked to observe some temporary practical norms concerning the sacrament of baptism. At this time, baptisms are still possible based on pastoral urgency. However, in order to limit the potential spread of the virus to a vulnerable population, parishes may only celebrate small, private family baptisms. There are to be no “immersion” baptisms. Family members who are especially vulnerable are requested to stay home.
During this health crisis, every caution must be exercised using all options to contain the contagion. The sacrament of reconciliation cannot be provided via technology. Parishioners should call their parish in the case of an emergency.
This information regarding the sacrament of reconciliation is intended to prevent the gathering of people in church. As the diocese continues to cooperate with the government and local health agencies -- taking into account their plea for social distancing as well as the need to protect our priests and the faithful from being exposed to the contagion – the restriction on scheduling confession times in church prevents the possibility of the faithful gathering in numbers that would exceed the current restrictions. The diocese has provided guidelines to the priests to protect themselves and the faithful when providing pastoral care. Any member of the faithful is free to contact their parish priest at any time to arrange for the sacrament of reconciliation.
All confirmation dates scheduled before Easter Sunday are postponed indefinitely and will be rescheduled once clearance is given. If the confirmation was to be celebrated by the pastor, it can be rescheduled at the parish.
Every effort should be made to reschedule weddings during this crisis -- if possible. If a civil license is available, a wedding can be celebrated with immediate family members only, keeping in mind the maximum number persons in attendance according to government directives.
If at all possible, it is recommended that a memorial Mass be scheduled at a time when the current restrictions are lifted. The Rite of Committal may be celebrated at the cemetery with immediate family members only, keeping in mind the call for social distancing. If a funeral Mass is celebrated, the attendees are limited to immediate family members only. Families are encouraged to make note in the published obituary that the funeral Mass and burial are private family-only events. Keep in mind the maximum number of persons in attendance according to government directives.
Remember to pray
Catholics have always joined together in prayer during times of crisis throughout the ages. We have ministered to the sick, attended to the dying and buried the dead. May this unprecedented time in our history be a time we remember who we are and whose we are – disciples of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. May we continue to demonstrate love of God and of our neighbor. In addition, may we remember to pray for everyone involved as we weather this storm.
As Pope Francis reminds us, we should be reaching out to our communities and praying in solidarity with the Church around the world. He offered this prayer to Mary, mother of Jesus: O Mary, you always shine on our path as a sign of salvation and hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm. You, Salvation of the People, know what we need and we are sure you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and to feasting after this time of trial. Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father, and to do as we are told by Jesus, who has taken upon himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows to lead us, through the cross, to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.
Visit the public health page of the diocesan website for updated information on how the coronavirus is impacting the diocese and precautions to take to protect yourself and others from the virus.