The Catholic Conference of Ohio, comprised of Catholic bishops throughout the state, is supporting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s April 27 plan to begin phasing in a planned reopening of the state, even as his executive stay-at-home order -- announced in March as the coronavirus health crisis worsened -- remains in place. The plan calls for a gradual return to work and daily activities.
Out of deep concern for the common good as well as the physical and spiritual well-being of all the people of Ohio, the bishops’ conference once again said it will cooperate with the governor and to support and abide by the multi-phased approach to returning to work and eventual public gathering in large groups.
As a result, the bishops extended the temporary suspension of all publicly celebrated Masses/liturgies until May 29, with the hope of publicly celebrating together the solemnity of Pentecost on the weekend of May 30-31.
Each of the Ohio bishops once again is dispensing the Catholic faithful who live in their respective dioceses and all other Catholics currently in their territories from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass during this time. The bishops asked for the cooperation and adherence of all the faithful to the governor’s directives during this period.
DeWine’s plan to gradually resume work and daily activity indicates that compliance with the previously announced restrictions has helped curb the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, the bishops said.
“We thank you for and admire the patience, cooperation and understanding you have already shown during this COVID-19 pandemic,” the bishops said in a statement issued on April 28. “We realize the frustration, sadness, and loss the faithful felt not to be able to gather personally to celebrate the Paschal mysteries during the sacred triduum and each Sunday. During this time of sacrifice and longing, we have joined our prayers and hearts to yours, trusting that God will see us through this pandemic and reunite us at the Eucharistic feast. Out of deep concern for the common good as well as the physical and spiritual well-being of all the people of Ohio, the Catholic bishops of Ohio have agreed once again to cooperate with the governor, and to support and abide by the multi-phased approach to returning to work and eventual public gathering in large groups.”
The bishops said they will be working with their pastoral teams “to consider reasonable, gradual and responsible initiatives for welcoming back the faithful in time to Sunday Mass, initiatives which will renew our love for the holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, and which will help us to restore Catholic life and invite others to share that life after the pandemic. We encourage individual dioceses and their respective pastors and parishioners to begin to work to establish plans which respect social distancing and other requirements for the safety of our people.”
They said the decision was not taken lightly. “We recognize the sacrifice we are called to make being physically distanced from the holy Eucharist and from one another. We remain grateful for your understanding and prayerful support. As your bishops, we continue to encourage you to keep holy the Lord’s Day by participating in Sunday Mass by way of radio broadcast or televised or livestreamed options and making a spiritual communion.”
The bishops also reminded the faithful of the plenary indulgences offered by the Church. “We encourage all the faithful to turn to the Church’s treasury of prayer, praying as a family or individually the Liturgy of the Hours, rosary, divine mercy chaplet, and Stations of the Cross, etc.,” they said.
“Together we continue to pray for all who are suffering from COVID-19, for all health care workers and first responders, for all the deceased and their families, and for an easing of the anxiety and tension caused by this pandemic. Relying on the Motherly care of Our Lady, Health of the Sick, we unite our sufferings to those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we trust in the glorious hope of his Resurrection,” they added.
Members of the Catholic Conference of Ohio are Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, Cincinnati Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Columbus Bishop Robert J. Brennan, Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, Youngstown Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., Father Donald P. Oleksiak, diocesan administrator of Cleveland, Toledo Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, Bishop J. Michael Botean, Romanian Eparchy of Canton, Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo, Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat, and Bishop Milan Lach, S.J., Byzantine Eparchy of Parma.