All public celebrations of Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are suspended as of March 16 in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the community.
Preliminary plans are to resume Masses April 6 pending continuing updates and guidance from local state and government and health officials. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson stated that the archdiocese will re-evaluate the situation closer to that date.
The mandate also suspends all public liturgical celebrations, including Liturgy of the Hours, Stations of the Cross and other group services, Bible studies and other activities. The dispensation for Catholic in the archdiocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is extended through April 5.
At this time, all churches will remain open for individuals for personal prayer, devotions and confessions.
“This decision has not been made lightly,” Archbishop Carlson wrote in a statement. “However, caring for both our physical and spiritual health go hand-in-hand, and the health, safety and overall well-being of the people of the archdiocese is my first priority.”
Priests will continue to celebrate Masses “sine populo" (without the people), with the assistance of at least one adult minister and no more than four ministers. The intentions for all those Masses will be offered for the people. The original intentions of public Masses will be rescheduled. Archbishop Carlson asked parishes to offer live-streamed Masses wherever possible. While live-streaming and televised options are available through the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, offerings through local parishes are preferred for parish communities.
Other directives include:
• Decisions regarding whether to continue with weddings and funeral remain with the parish pastor. The archdiocese recommends limiting attendance to immediate family members only or rescheduling. Parish pastors will determine whether to continue with baptisms, but where possible, the archdiocese recommends that baptisms be conducted in a simple, private, individual ceremony.
• Recommendations are to celebrate the sacrament of penance using a screen (anonymously) to ensure the health department’s social distancing guidelines. If a penitent prefers to offer a confession fact to face, the chair should be placed approximately six feet apart. This may require holding confessions in a different location than usual.
• Holy Communion may be administered by clergy at Masses “sine populo,” following previous guidelines. All ministers, ordinary and extraordinary, delivering Holy Communion to the elderly, sick or homebound need to be in good health.
• Anointing of the sick may still be administered by priests to people seriously ill or in danger of death. However, priests administering the sacrament need to be in good health.
• All those administering sacraments to the elderly, sick or homebound need to follow proper protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for handwashing and use of masks by those infected and those who are administering.
• In order to maintain continued operation of parishes and their missions, parishioners are encouraged to use online giving, drop off or mail their contributions.
Archbishop Carlson also seeks continued support of people who depend on parish charitable efforts for food and other necessities along with referrals to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of St. Louis.
The latest public statements and information from the archdiocese regarding COVID-19 is at archstl.org/coronavirus.