Hello again, everyone. I’m Father Don Oleksiak, administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought us together in solidarity as we respond with careful focus and deep resolve to care for one another during these troubled times that challenge us, our families, our communities and the world. As we endure this serious situation, we take comfort in the words of Jesus who reminds in the Gospel of St. Matthew, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
My friends, as you know, the bishops of Ohio and I have been meeting regularly telephonically since mid-March to discuss recommendations and requirements implemented by the state of Ohio and medical experts on our approach to dealing with the virus pandemic. Consequently -- and very reluctantly -- we agreed to suspend the public celebration of Mass in March to ensure the safety of the faithful and the common good of our communities.
After much discussion -- and with proper consultation -- I can now say that we will begin to reopen the churches of our diocese for the celebration of public Mass beginning with weekday Mass starting on May 25. This will be done only 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 to celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost the weekend of May 30-31, when Sunday Mass will be celebrated publicly.
We have asked our pastors, with their parish staffs, to undertake a rigorous effort to meet specific guidelines intended to help keep us safe. These guidelines include instructions on maintaining social distancing, recommendations to provide a safe environment and instructions for the distribution of holy Communion. The guidelines can be viewed on the diocesan website, dioceseofcleveland.org.
In addition, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until further notice. I continue to be cautious and concerned for those who are most at risk -- the elderly and those with serious health issues. I 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.
I would like to offer a special thank you to our clergy, religious, lay ministers, teachers – anyone and everyone -- playing a role in strengthening our Catholic solidarity during these very challenging times.
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.
God bless you.