Mar 11, 2022
As we mark two years of living with COVID-19 this month, it is clear that in many ways society is being able to return to pre-pandemic practices, even while the virus continues to be in our community.
With infection rates continuing to fall, some of you have shared with me that more people returned to Mass for the First Sunday of Lent. I strongly encourage you to continue inviting your parishioners back to the in-person celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week through all of your communication methods. Our faith is a tangible and communal reality and we cannot properly practice our faith apart from one another.
With all 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton now in low/moderate levels of transmission, we are once again in a position to make more of our liturgical protocols optional, including:
· Altar servers are no longer required to wear a mask while performing their duties but may continue to wear one if he/she wishes to do so.
· Priests, Deacons and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are no longer required to wear masks during the distribution of Holy Communion. Please recognize that many of our faithful people (including those with underlying medical conditions) have found great comfort in their priest or Extraordinary Minister of Communion wearing a mask during the distribution of Holy Communion over the last several months – so priests are encouraged to get feedback or communicate with their people before simply removing masks with no notification.
· Priests, Deacons and other ministers involved in entrance/exit processions are no longer required to wear masks but may continue to wear one if they desire.
· Simply as a practice of good hygiene rather than a pandemic protocol, Priests, Deacons, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are encouraged to continue washing or sanitizing their hands prior to the distribution of Holy Communion.
With the changes being announced today, it is important to emphasize that our parishes have been able to resume almost all pre-pandemic ways of worship with only one major exception continuing at this time:
· The distribution of Precious Blood from the cup continues to remain suspended at this time.
One final note – as previously stated in our Lent/Easter COVID guidance, I would continue to ask that the faithful reverence the Cross with either a bow or a genuflection, instead of kissing or embracing the Cross on Good Friday.
As always, if the number of positive cases surges in a specific county – or within a specific parish community in the future – mitigation measures may be reconsidered and reinstated.
Thank you for your continued best efforts as we, thankfully, return to a greater sense of normalcy!
Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton