Bishop Michael Olson revises coronavirus protocols in the Diocese of Fort Worth
FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson, in consultation with priests and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and other medical consultants, has reassessed the protocols for the celebration of Mass in the Diocese of Fort Worth due to the ready availability of vaccines and medicines which limit hospitalization due to COVID-19.
The guidelines for the celebration of Mass are detailed in a pastoral letter to priests, seminarians, religious women, and faithful laity dated March 4, 2022, and will go into effect immediately.
Under the new protocols, wearing face masks during Mass and at the distribution of Holy Communion is now optional and left to the discretion of the ordinary or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Ministers of Holy Communion must still sanitize their hands before and after the distribution of Holy Communion, a practice which precedes the pandemic.
The bishop acknowledged the use of masks has a beneficial effect in preventing the spread of any communicable disease by reducing the transmission of infectious particles when coughing.
Concern for other people, especially the elderly and those with compromised immunity, should inform the decision that parishioners make regarding the wearing of masks.
In his letter, the bishop reinforced his directive that those who are sick should stay home. Those with fear about catching the virus, either because they are responsible for a vulnerable person or are concerned for their own health, should feel obliged to stay home from Mass. He stated, “If your health permits, you should plan on being physically present for the celebration of Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.”
He encouraged pastors to continue to livestream Mass, which is an inadequate substitute for actual presence and participation in Mass, but a “very consoling service” to those unable to be physically present. Livestreaming funerals and weddings is particularly helpful to shut-ins and those unable to travel long distances, he added.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Olson has consulted with priests, health experts, and political officials to determine protocols that keep congregations physically safe while meeting the spiritual needs of the faithful in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Since reopening Catholic parishes for the celebration of public Masses beginning May 2-3, 2020, Bishop Olson and the diocese have periodically adjusted the protocols for the safe celebration of Mass.
This pastoral letter was released almost two years from his first pastoral letter concerning coronavirus, which was dated March 12, 2020.
He concluded this letter with an assurance of his prayers and stated, “I am grateful for the generosity of each and all of you during this time that has required a more intentional practice of the virtue of solidarity and compassion for our neighbors.”