Reverend and dear Father,
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf announced new mitigation efforts for COVID-19.
The order includes a limitation of no more than 25 people at indoor events and no more than 250 people at outdoor gatherings. Please keep these numbers in mind for any parish-based events you may be planning.
In terms of indoor Mass capacity, Governor Wolf indicated that these limitations do not apply to religious institutions. As a result, there will be NO CHANGE to the current liturgical directives in the Diocese of Scranton.
The governor noted his changes are prompted by an unsettling climb in new coronavirus cases nationwide and concerns about a potential new surge in Pennsylvania cases.
I cannot stress strongly enough the need for every parish to follow all safety protocols that have been put in place for the protection of our parishioners, clergy and community. Put simply, none of us can take these procedures for granted because this situation can change very quickly.
While all liturgical directives can be found on the Diocese of Scranton’s website at www.dioceseofscranton.org, the most important liturgical directives include:
· Everyone attending Mass is required to wear a mask except during Holy Communion
· Pews are to be marked for social distancing and parishioners need to maintain six foot social distancing at all times while inside or outside a church
· Properly sanitizing pews and other high-touch surfaces after each Mass
· Encouraging anyone who is ill to stay home
I emphasize this continued vigilance so that we hopefully will not have to suspend public Masses once again. As you may be aware, some parishes in California and Arizona are closing again due to spikes in COVID-19 infections. Additionally, several states that border Pennsylvania, including Ohio and West Virginia are experiencing spikes in the number of cases being reported. I also hope that prudence now will allow our Catholic Schools to safely resume in-person learning next month.
At the same time, you may want to encourage parishioners to follow the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s recommendation to self-quarantine (and therefore not immediately attend Mass) if they travel to any states that are seeing a significant increase in cases.
I recognize these are challenging and frustrating times. Thank you for all that you are doing to keep the faithful of our parishes safe. As we have during the past four months, may we tap the blessings of our faith to sustain us in the days ahead.
Please stay safe and well.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton