WHEELING, WV (WOWK) – Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark Brennan has released a set of directives further detailing plans for resuming public Mass in Catholic churches in West Virginia.
Brennan says the directives were developed by a committee of clergy and lay leaders headed by diocesan Vicar General Msgr. Eugene Ostrowski. Pastors from around the state also shared their input for the directives, which Brennan says will respect Catholic liturgical and pastoral principles as well as guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s recommendations.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived,” Brennan says, “we entered a Phase I, suspending the public celebration of Masses and closing our churches to protect the health and safety of our people. This new Phase II is a transitional phase, requiring the full cooperation of clergy and laity so that public Masses may be celebrated in the safest manner possible until we can enter Phase III, the return to normal practice in our liturgical life.”
The complete list of the directives is posted on the diocesan website. Some of these directives include:
- Public Sunday Masses are scheduled to begin with the Masses of May 23-24, 2020, if the
parish plan submitted by the pastor is approved by the Bishop.
- The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in effect until further notice. Those who are sick and more susceptible to the virus are urged to remain home and participate in televised or online Masses. Anyone worried they could contract the virus by attending is also encouraged to stay home.
- Social distancing will be required at Mass. People living in the same household may sit
together; otherwise, there must be six feet of separation between individuals. Every effort
will be made to accommodate those who come, but once the reduced seating
capacity of a church is reached, no others may enter the church. Some parishes will be
able to arrange for audio/visual participation in Mass from a hall or gymnasium.
- Those in attendance are to wear masks during Mass, except in the moment of receiving Holy
Communion. If at all possible, they should bring their own masks. Handmade masks are acceptable to wear.
- Some common, though optional, practices of a Catholic Mass will be omitted: the use of
hymnals, holding hands at the Our Father, the Sign of Peace, the offering of the Precious
Blood of Christ to the faithful.
- In churches with multiple Masses, the church (and hall or gym, if used) will have to be
sanitized between Masses, as well as before the first Mass and after the last.
“I am grateful to Msgr. Ostrowski and his team for their careful work on this plan to keep our faithful and our clergy as safe and healthy as possible as they ‘go rejoicing into the house of the Lord’ to celebrate together the sacred mysteries of our faith,” Brennan says.