Bishop Olson reaffirms safety precautions for public celebration of Mass in Sept. 25 pastoral letter
FORT WORTH — Almost five months after the 91 parishes of the Diocese of Fort Worth reopened for public celebration of the Mass the weekend of May 2-3, Bishop Michael Olson issued a pastoral letter reaffirming the safety protocols put into practice and thanking the faithful for their patience and compliance in safeguarding the health of the community.
Bishop Olson reexamined the existing health precautions in light of the upcoming influenza season and the current case numbers of coronavirus. In consultation with public health and civic officials, the current but provisional protocols last modified in June will remain in effect until further notice.
The letter states that the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues. The bishop urged those over 60 and individuals with compromised immune systems, underlying health conditions, or symptoms of any illness to stay home. Some parishes offer Masses designated for those 60 and older. Many parishes, including St. Patrick Cathedral, began livestreaming Mass during the shelter-in-place order and continue to offer this means of spiritual Communion.
The faithful who attend Mass must keep at least three feet of distance between themselves and those outside their household. This limits the number of people who can safely attend Mass to 50 percent or less, in accordance with the guidelines of state health and public officials.
For individuals 2 and older, wearing a mask or scarf over the nose and mouth during Mass continues to be mandatory.
Other measures enacted to reduce the spread of the coronavirus include hand sanitizer at the entrances, sanitizing the church between Masses, removal of worship aids and collection baskets, and an orderly dismissal with no gathering afterwards. Holy Communion is received in the hand only.
Modifications made to the liturgy during the flu season in January, which eliminated a shared chalice, holding hands, and handshakes, remain in effect.
These same safety protocols apply to Baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Priests offer Reconciliation according to the parish’s schedule; however, wearing a mask and remaining at a distance or behind a screen is necessary.
Religious education and sacramental preparation classes are being conducted remotely this fall. Social distancing, mask wearing, and increased hygiene measures are mandatory at other parish meetings.
Outdoor processions, picnics, and festivals are prohibited, as people tend to gather in groups without social distancing. Likewise, no overnight retreats are permitted.
The bishop also thanked parishioners for their “extraordinary generosity” by giving nonperishable food and gift cards to their local parishes and Catholic Charities Fort Worth. He encouraged those who can to continue giving to outreach services and their parishes.
The bishop concluded his pastoral letter by requesting prayer for those affected by the COVID-19 virus, along with those working in public services, those faced with economic hardship, and the clergy. Prayers for the development of a safe and effective vaccine are also warranted.
He reminded local Catholics to “please remember that we are walking together on a challenging path to recovery as sons and daughters of the Resurrection. With God’s grace, we are more than able to accomplish this.”