Hello again everyone. I am Father Don Oleksiak, the administrator for the Diocese of Cleveland.
In this time of worldwide fear and worry over the coronavirus pandemic, we hear in Sunday’s Gospel the deeply reassuring words of Jesus who said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Jesus guides us on our path as he is the way, the truth and the life. Let us put our faith and trust squarely on him as together we navigate these troubled times that challenge us, our families, our communities and the world.
My friends, as the “Responsible Restart Ohio Plan” is implemented during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic -- allowing a gradual return to work and lifting of some of the restrictions regarding consumer, retail and services returning to operation -- the bishops of Ohio, I myself, and all of you, are anxious for the safe return to the public celebration of Mass.
While making every effort to respect the spirit of the governor’s instructions, the bishops and I want to begin in some way to make the public celebration of Mass available. With that in mind, bishops of Ohio and I have agreed that each diocese will determine a soft opening date later in May granting permission for the public celebration of daily Mass -- where it can be achieved safely and where pastorally possible -- with less than 50% occupancy of the church building and respecting social distancing. This plan provides for the possibility of the gradual return to the public celebration of Mass and prepares us for the solemnity of Pentecost the weekend of May 30-31, when Sunday Mass will be celebrated publicly.
[Read the statement from the bishops of Ohio HERE]
During the next few weeks, we will be working with our pastors and diocesan pastoral staffs to prepare for a soft opening of the public celebration of daily Mass. To this end, we ask our pastors with their parish staffs to prepare to implement a rigorous effort to fulfill guidelines, which will be forthcoming from each diocese to include maintaining social distancing, recommendations to provide a safe environment and instructions for the distribution of holy Communion.
The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect. The bishops of Ohio and I continue to be cautious and concerned for those who are most at risk -- the elderly and those with serious health issues. We also remain deeply concerned for our priests, many of whom we find in this category. We strongly urge those who are most vulnerable to stay at home and we implore those who are not feeling well to refrain from coming to church. We thank you for your patience, understanding and cooperation as we implement this gradual return to the public celebration of Mass.
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, especially during this month of May, we unite our sufferings to those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we trust in the glorious hope of his Resurrection.
Thank you and God bless you and your family.