Friday, May 1, 2020
Communications Department - Archdiocese of Miami
Via phone calls and comments on our website, the archdiocese has been receiving many questions related to the safe practice of the faith during this outbreak of the coronavirus. We will attempt to answer as many of those as possible here.
Update as of April 20:
In an April 20, 2020 letter to archdiocesan priests, Archbishop Thomas Wenski listed and answered some of the questions frequently raised by parishioners as a result of the coronavirus quarantine and suspension of public Masses. Here are his answers.
Q. Why are the church doors locked? People need to pray!
A. Church doors were locked in most cases for security reasons or to prevent vandalism — even before the pandemic. Many parishes have adoration chapels, but they are usually too small for proper "social distancing."
Q. Why are priests not celebrating Masses?
A. Priests are celebrating Masses. Most of them have followed my instructions to continue to celebrate daily Mass and many are livestreaming even daily Masses. In fact, at these Masses, even though there is not a congregation present, there are assisting a small number of the faithful, as readers, cantors, musicians, servers, etc.
Q. Why can't we do "parking lot" Masses like other places?
A. Other places are not the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Florida as Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade are. "Stay at home" mandates discourage any event that would gather large numbers of people. Some municipalities have mandates that are quite draconian. Since civil authorities have urged citizens to stay at home, it would be imprudent for us to encourage large gatherings, at least until we are on the other side of the "curve" and those mandates are relaxed.
Q. Why are funerals forbidden?
A. They are not. There may be a priest who should not preside (because he is vulnerable), but he is to find someone who can. Parishes are doing funerals all the time — with restrictions on the number of attendees. The same is true of weddings.
Q. Why can't I go to confession?
A. Confessions are being heard in the Archdiocese of Miami. Again, some priests may not be available because of the need to self-isolate. However, right before Holy Week, the president announced that the next few weeks would be the worst in terms of deaths and infections and so "stay at home" mandates were given. To discourage large gatherings of people leaving their homes, "drive-by" confessions, "drive by" palms and "drive by" Communions were suspended. Parishes are supposed to be open — the phones being answered, etc. If a sick call is received, it should be answered and the person attended to; if someone comes to the office and asks to go to confession, he or she should be attended to.
Q. Why has the Church abandoned us?
A. We have not! The clergy of this archdiocese have worked "creatively, prudently and pastorally" to be present to our people. Parishes have organized "phone trees," groups to shop for elderly members, catechesis by "Zoom." We continue educating our Catholic school kids online. We do livestream of Masses and other devotions, we have TV Masses, public service announcements on television and radio, and Radio Paz continues to broadcast 24/7.
Update as of March 18:
Effective today, March 18, Archbishop Thomas Wenski suspended all regularly scheduled celebrations of Masses or other liturgical events in parish churches and other public sanctuaries. Also, any parish or ministry events — e.g. prayer groups, Bible studies, etc. — are also suspended or postponed.
Funerals, or other events that perhaps cannot be postponed — e.g. baptisms or weddings — may be celebrated with immediate family members only who are not sick and are not advised by their doctors to self-isolate. Appropriate social distancing should be observed.
While these gatherings of the faithful are suspended, the parishes remain “open.” Read more here.
The answers below have been updated with the new information.
Update as of March 13:
Archbishop Thomas Wenski has announced the following. The answers below have been edited to reflect the new information::
- Sunday Masses for the third week of Lent, as well as daily Masses, will continue to be celebrated in the archdiocese.
- Catholic elementary and high schools will close Tuesday, March 17, until further notice.
- Religious education programs are suspended until further notice.
- Those who, out of anxiety or an abundance of caution, are uncomfortable attending Mass are dispensed from the obligation “given these extraordinary circumstances.”
- Retreats and other parish activities will be canceled or postponed.
- All these measures are being taken in an effort to increase “social distancing” in order to mitigate exposure to the coronavirus.
Q: My parish has decided to go ahead with a first Communion ceremony. Shouldn’t first Communions and confirmations be canceled to prevent any spread of the virus, especially among elderly grandparents who might be in attendance?
A: Archbishop Wenski has left those decisions up to each pastor. Some confirmations scheduled for the next two weeks have been postponed. Others have not. Most first Communions take place after Easter, usually in May. The archdiocese will continue to monitor the recommendations of government and health officials and act accordingly at the proper time.
Updated March 18: All regularly scheduled celebrations of Masses or other liturgical events in parish churches and other public sanctuaries have been suspended. Also, any parish or ministry events — e.g. prayer groups, Bible studies, etc. — are suspended or postponed. Funerals, or other events that perhaps cannot be postponed — e.g. baptisms or weddings — may be celebrated with immediate family members only who are not sick and are not advised by their doctors to self-isolate.
Q: I'd like to know if my mother who is 80 years old should go to Mass or if it's better that she watch it on TV. I'm afraid she might get the virus.
A: The Centers for Disease Control issued the following recommendation for the elderly, who are at higher risk for serious illness and complications should they be infected with the virus.
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
At the moment, there is no COVID-19 outbreak in the Archdiocese of Miami (Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties); only isolated cases, most traced to travel outside the country or contact with others who have traveled. Florida's Department of Health is issuing daily updates on the situation. You can access them at this link: https://bit.ly/2TLi58a.
If it makes both you and your mother feel more comfortable, however, you can watch the Mass for shut-ins, in English or Spanish, on our website beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday through all of Sunday. The Mass is also televised at specific times on local channels. Here’s the link to the Mass and information on where you can watch it: https://www.miamiarch.org/CatholicDiocese.php?op=Television_Mass.
Updated March 18: See a list of parishes and links where Masses are livestreamed here.
Q: I’m concerned about high schools remaining open in Broward County. The CDC clearly stated that we need to avoid gatherings of 500 or more. All the universities are sending students home and going to online (learning). All events have been canceled or postponed. Yet our children are still attending school and are at risk of being exposed to this highly contagious virus. I beg of you to reconsider and close the high schools in Broward County.
A: As happens during hurricane season, archdiocesan schools will follow the lead of public schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties as to whether to remain open or close. We also heed the directives of county and state health officials. So far, no mass closure of schools has been recommended or ordered but the archdiocese will continue to monitor the situation.
Updated March 13: Out of an abundance of caution and to mitigate exposure to the virus, archdiocesan parochial schools and high schools will close on Tuesday, March 17. (In order to provide to parents the opportunity to arrange childcare and personal schedules, Catholic schools will be open on Monday, March 16.) Religious education programs (CCD) are also suspended. Retreats and other parish activities also will be canceled or postponed in an effort to increase “social distancing” in order to mitigate exposure.
Updated March 18: Although school facilities are closed, students are expected to attend classes online. Easter break has been moved up to March 23-27. Students will not have classes on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday (April 9, 10 and 13).
Q: Reception of holy Communion: Why are parishioners still being allowed to receive Communion on the tongue? Isn’t that unsanitary, since saliva from one person might be spread to the next? Or is it more unsanitary — and for many people irreverent — to receive in the hands, which have touched doorknobs, pews and many other items on the way into church?
A: Church law favors reception on the tongue but in the U.S. and in other countries, the Church has also allowed the practice of Communion in the hand while insisting that communicants are free to choose either option. The archdiocesan guidelines issued March 2 confirm that “it is still left to the discretion of the communicant how they wish to receive the Host.” The guidelines note that the distribution of Communion involves “contact with both the mouth and hands,” so those who distribute Communion are asked to “wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap before and after distributing the Host.” The guidelines also urge those who are “feeling unwell or have flu-like symptoms” to stay home. It is up to us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to watch out for one another’s health and well-being.
But the emphasis should not be on how we receive Communion but how reverently we approach the sacrament and what we do afterward. When we respond “Amen” we are acknowledging, as St. Paul wrote: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” But that extends beyond the moment of reception, into the lives we lead after we leave the church. As St. Augustine said: “Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are: the Body of Christ.”
Q: Is Mass suspended for the Archdiocese of Miami? Are first Communions, retreats, and other activities canceled because of the coronavirus?
A: At this time, Masses are not suspended or canceled in our parishes. However, anyone who is sick or exposed to someone sick should not go to Mass; if anyone feels particularly anxious about participating at Mass because of concerns about the coronavirus, they are excused from the obligation of Mass attendance. We continue to keep in close contact with civil authorities. Should it be necessary to cancel Masses we will try to make timely announcements to that effect. Many retreats and similar activities have been canceled or postponed in an effort to increase “social distancing” in order to mitigate exposure.
Updated March 13: Archbishop Wenski has given a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass to anyone who is anxious about participating in such a public gathering; as well as those who are elderly or sick; or taking care of the sick, elderly or children. Many parish events, including some confirmations, have been postponed until a later date.
Updated March 18: Effective today, all Masses and liturgical celebrations in the Archdiocese of Miami have been canceled until further notice. Read more here.