Bishop O’Connell: Dispensation for Mass obligation given, but churches will remain open

Bishop O’Connell: Dispensation for Mass obligation given, but churches will remain open

The following message was issued by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., to parishioners of the Diocese of Trenton March 12, effective immediately:

The Governor of New Jersey is recommending – not mandating – that events anticipating crowds of 250-plus people be canceled due to the potential spread of the coronavirus.

As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I am NOT instructing that parish churches be closed or weekend Masses be canceled in the Diocese of Trenton. All weekend Masses should be celebrated as regularly scheduled.  The Sacrament of Penance should also remain available.  Previous instructions issued regarding liturgical practices at Mass remain in effect.  

Those who are feeling sick or are in high risk groups should not celebrate or attend Mass and should stay home.

At the same time, I am granting a DISPENSATION from the OBLIGATION to attend weekend/Sunday Mass to all the Catholic faithful until further notice.  Mass will still be offered in parishes for those who choose or who are able to attend.  Otherwise, I recommend that the faithful pray and take advantage of/participate in Holy Mass that is broadcast on television.

Pastors should consider canceling other large gatherings of the faithful in parish churches or venues out of an abundance of caution. Families should be asked to limit attendance at other sacramental celebrations (e.g., Baptism, Confirmation) to immediate family only.

In light of the endurance of the virus on frequently touched surfaces – doors, pews, holy water fonts, etc. – please consider frequent, proper cleaning of these surfaces in our churches.

I cannot anticipate every (“what if …”) question that might be asked. I simply instruct pastors and priests to use the very best judgment possible and to keep informed of any developments as they arise.

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