My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We find ourselves in a challenging time as the Coronavirus threat continues to linger. While I trust that you are all preparing our parishes to welcome our faithful as best we can, I would like to offer clarification regarding Diocesan guidelines for liturgies until Phase lV when we can likely open our churches for our celebrations of Mass.
As a reminder, in the Diocese of Buffalo:
1. No regularly scheduled/announced Masses should be celebrated publicly at this time. The diocese will communicate any changes to this in writing as we move through the phases of reopening.
2. While New York State allows gatherings of no more than 10 for worship services, our Diocesan guidelines indicate that we will not be offering any public Masses of any size yet. However, we can allow for small funerals or emergency baptisms while adhering to the number of only 10 attendees.
3. Parking lot or outdoor liturgies may be conducted, but proper precautions should be taken,
including enforcing policies for physical distancing. lf communion is introduced into these liturgies, it is important to regard the safety of the people and the sanctity of the sacrament.
- Communion should be distributed in the context of the Mass (not after Mass has ended) at delineated stations, following the guidelines issued by the diocese (see Forward in Faith, 5/21/2020, pages 8-9).
- Communion is not to be distributed via drive-thru or other similar means.
- Priests/deacons/ministers should not go from car to car.
It is encouraging to see that Western New York will be entering Phase ll on June 2nd, and yet difficult for all of us to have to continue to wait to gather our parishioners around the altar. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate the Eucharist together again. ln the meantime, I ask that you exercise patience and caution as you await further instructions from the diocese before proceeding with any public liturgies.
Yours fraternally in Christ,
Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger