Catholic parishes set to reopen under diocese guidelines

WHEELING, W.Va. — Catholic parishes around the state will return to their churches for the celebration of mass this weekend for the first time since closures in mid-March due to COVID-19.

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston spokesperson Tim Bishop told MetroNews on Thursday that 95 percent of parishes have submitted their plans for safety which were approved by the diocese this week.

On May 8, Bishop Mark Brennan released a set of directives for all parishes to follow. The parishes then had to come up with their own plans around the directives and formally submit it to Brennan for approval.

The directives include:

1. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in effect until further notice. Sick persons and those more susceptible to infection – the elderly, those already in frail health – are urged to remain at home and participate in televised or online Masses. Anyone who fears being infected by attending Mass should stay home.

2. Social distancing will be required at Mass. Those who live in the same household may sit together; otherwise, there must be six feet of separation between persons. Every effort will be made to accommodate the faithful who come but once the reduced seating capacity of a church is reached, no others may enter the church. Some parishes will be able to arrange for audio/visual participation in Mass from a hall or gymnasium.

3. The faithful are to wear masks during Mass, except in the moment of receiving Holy Communion. If at all possible, they should bring their own masks, which may be made at home.

4. Some common though optional practices of a Catholic Mass will be omitted: the use of hymnals, holding hands at the Our Father, the Sign of Peace, the offering of the Precious
Blood of Christ to the faithful.

Bishop said the remaining parishes are getting their plans into the diocese on Thursday and Friday.

The diocese released a video on its YouTube page and website on Wednesday that walks people through what mass will look like following the directives set in place.

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