Fall River Diocese Adds Additional Directives in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

Edgar da Cunha, bishop of the Fall River Diocese

FALL RIVER – Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha has issued further directives addressing various aspects of liturgical and sacramental practices in parishes in the Fall River Diocese in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In recent weeks, our Diocese has joined with others across the country and around the world in taking unprecedented action in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic,” da Cunha said.

“It is my fervent prayer that these steps will help in the prevention of further spread of the virus and in the overall support of the health and well-being of all persons in our communities.”

The bishop added that the steps, while necessary, significantly affect parish life and have raised questions on how to continue moving forward.

Da Cunha issued a series of directives to provide instruction to parishes and to ensure unified practices in all diocesan parishes.

To become effective immediately, the instructions build upon an in some areas supersede previous diocesan guidelines and rules.

Churches may continue to remain open for limited times during the day to the extent possible and at the discretion of the pastor to provide parishioners who still wish with an opportunity to visit for private prayer.

Either the pastor or a designated parish staff member must be attentive to the number of visitors present at any given time, which cannot exceed 10 and the need for ongoing cleaning and sanitizing during after-hours and public hours.

No distribution of Holy Communion is to take place at either inside or outside the church to minimize the risk of infection and spread.

Parishes are to cancel all Lenten penance services and suspend all regularly scheduled confession times.

Priests may offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation only in danger of death, or by appointment in extraordinary situations.

In these cases, social distancing practices must be observed, while at the same time ensuring privacy for the penitent.

There are no confessions by telephone, other electronic means, or by “drive by.”

Families should strongly consider postponing celebrations.

If there is to be a celebration because of extraordinary concerns, only the immediate family should attend and not exceed a totally of 10 people in the church at any time.

Weddings are to take place without the celebration of Mass.

Funeral Masses are not to be permitted in keeping with the priority to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.

Funerals may take place only in the form of “The Rite of Committal with Final Commendation” at the cemetery, to be celebrated outdoors, and only the immediate family should attend.

Memorial Mass should be scheduled at a later date when the restrictions for public gatherings have been lifted.

Public celebrations will not take place for Palm Sunday.

Private celebrations may take place using the Solemn Entrance when Mass is live streamed or televised.

Following Palm Sunday Mass/Blessing, the blessed palm branches should be made available to parishioners either in the vestibule of the church or in an appropriate place outside one of the entrances.

Da Cunha will celebrate the annual Chrism Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral on Holy Thursday, April 9, at 10 a.m. with a small group of priests concelebrating.

Plans are being made to live stream the Chrism Mass and people are encouraged to watch.

In regard to the rule of abstaining from meat on the Fridays of Lent, anyone having difficulty obtaining alternatives for sustenance during the crisis is dispensed from this obligation with the exception of on Good Friday.

Friday’s of Lent remain days of penance and prayer, and those dispensed from abstinence are encouraged to practice some other form of denial in its place.

“I want to assure all of the faithful of our Diocese that I – along with your priests – continue to pray for you and your loved ones, for your health and well-being in these unsettling and challenging days,” said da Cunha.

“I ask all of you to join your prayers with mine in a special way for those who have died from COVID-19 and those who are now infected with the virus.”

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the CapeCod.com News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.



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