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Feature News | Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Reminder: Rules for returning to Mass

In giving the OK, Miami’s archbishop cites restrictions, urges prudence as virus 'is still among us'

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Image of Archbishop Thomas Wenski's letter to parishioners regarding the resumption of Masses with the congregation in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, effective May 26, 2020. Parishes in the Keys were given the go-ahead to resume public Masses as of May 18, 2020. Click on the link in the story to read the archbishop's letter.


Image of Archbishop Thomas Wenski's letter to parishioners regarding the resumption of Masses with the congregation in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, effective May 26, 2020. Parishes in the Keys were given the go-ahead to resume public Masses as of May 18, 2020. Click on the link in the story to read the archbishop's letter.

Editor's note: As more people begin to return to Mass, here's a reminder of the rules to be followed for doing so at all archdiocesan churches. This article was originally posted May 18, 2020.

MIAMI | After giving permission for churches in the Keys to resume the public celebration of Masses effective May 18, 2020, Archbishop Thomas Wenski has told pastors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that they can resume public Masses beginning May 26 — the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

The first Sunday Masses with congregations will be celebrated Pentecost Sunday, the weekend of May 30-31.

There will be some restrictions for Mass-goers, however, so livestream Masses will continue for the foreseeable future. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect “indefinitely,” the archbishop wrote in a letter to parishioners dated May 18, 2020.

Those who are elderly, sick, or have underlying conditions that put them at high risk for complications from the coronavirus, as well as their caregivers, are urged to continue taking part in the Mass from the safety of their homes. The archbishop said they should “contact the parish rectory and arrange for the sacraments to be brought to them.”

The restrictions for Mass-goers were outlined by the archbishop in his letter to the faithful and in a separate message to priests. These include:

  • All worshipers need to wear face masks and remove them only when receiving Communion. Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion will wear face masks while distributing Communion but not while they are at the altar or preaching.
  • Capacity in the churches is based on social/physical distancing of six feet per person/family or approximately 25-30% of normal capacity. Pastors may schedule additional Masses, have overflow rooms or create some kind of “reservation system” to accommodate those who want to come to Mass.
  • Social or physical distancing also will be observed while entering and leaving the church and lining up for Communion.
  • Communion will not be given under both species; only under the form of bread. “I am not mandating Communion only in the hand — as Communion on the tongue if done properly doesn’t involve touching the communicant or his/her tongue,” the archbishop told his priests.
  • The faithful are not to hold hands while reciting the Lord’s Prayer, nor will they exchange the Sign of Peace.
  • There will be no offertory procession with gifts; no holy water at the entrances; and offertory baskets will not be passed around.
  • Hymnals and missalettes will not be provided. Parishioners can bring their own or access Scripture readings by an app.
  • Hand sanitizers should be available at church entrances and church surfaces (including pews, door handles and bathrooms) should be wiped down with disinfectant between Masses.
  • Other parish activities and meetings (other than virtual meetings) remain suspended.

“These arrangements will take some time getting used to and so you are asked to pay attention to ushers or others who may be directing,” the archbishop wrote in his letter to parishioners.

He also said that “if anyone disagrees about the necessity of wearing a face mask, I would ask that person to wear it anyway — out of respect for and charity towards their fellow parishioners.”

The archbishop noted that “we do not live in a risk-free world,” as risk exists in every human activity.

“But prudence helps us to mitigate risk whenever and wherever possible,” he said. “The coronavirus, COVID-19, has introduced new risk into our lives — and until a vaccine is widely available, we will be unable to eliminate completely the risks, but we must prudently try to mitigate those risks wherever and whenever possible.”

He reminded South Florida Catholics that although Masses with the congregation have been suspended since March 16, 2020, “we never ‘closed’: our parish offices remained open, our schools, our Catholic Charities, our Catholic Health Services, our Pastoral Center all continued their operations.”

Priests also continued making sick calls, hearing confessions, offering daily Mass and reaching out to their parishioners through the internet and whatever other technological means were available.

“And while they could not celebrate Masses in church with you these past many weeks, (your priests) never failed in offering you, the people of God, their most ‘essential service’ of their prayers,” the archbishop wrote.

Though the resumption of public Masses is great news, he added a word of caution, telling his priests to have a plan B “if you should get sick, display some symptoms or have to isolate because you have the virus.”

He cited a Catholic parish in Houston, Texas, that had to suspend Masses two weeks after reopening because three of their priests tested positive for the virus — although all were asymptomatic. The parish had to ask anyone attending Masses to monitor their health and be tested for COVID-19.

In his letter to parishioners, the archbishop concluded: “The novel coronavirus is still among us — as is the risk of contagion. As we move to reopen, prudence — the ability to govern and discipline ourselves by the use of reason — must govern our actions. There is no substitute for good judgment.”

Comments from readers

Charles Kane - 06/18/2020 12:13 PM
Now that we have settled into the routine of the new, safe Mass and Holy Communion, I wish the Archiepiscopal would permit small prayer groups (less than 10) to meet with proper safe guards.
Philip Rhea - 05/29/2020 09:53 PM
Thank you, your Excellency, for opening your churches. In this time of fear and anxiety it is the trust in the Lord and the balm of the sacraments that keep our spirits high. We are blessed that you are upholding the teachings and laws of the Church in regards to the reception of the Holy Eucharist. It is truly awesome to kneel before our King and receive Him, Whom the Heavens cannot contain, as little children. Tantum ergo, Sacramentum, Veneremur cernui.
George Griffith - 05/25/2020 11:20 PM
THANK YOU, ARCHBISHOP, for opening up the sacrament of the Mass. Having been in almost a Spiritual fasting, deprived of the holy Mass and of Confession during this quarantine, I realized more than ever how much I desire it. As we physically live on food, we physically and spiritually live on the BODY and BLOOD of JESUS CHRIST. I wish to receive Him purely on my tongue if possible, and would rather die receiving HIM than to live without receiving Him. To the Eucharistic Ministers on this board I say TRUST IN CHRIST, Whom you are giving. Stop complaining and take joy in knowing that we may receive Him again.
Javier Vargas - 05/25/2020 09:26 PM
Blessed by the Lord! Thank you Archbishop for being true to our Catholic Faith. Communion in the mouth has always been the preferred method by the Church and in reference to both species: our Lord is fully present in both, means He is body and blood in the Eucharist AND also in the Wine so by receiving one you are actually receiving both species. Thank you for reminding us this truth!
Ezekiel Russell - 05/25/2020 09:12 PM
Thank you!! I thought that maybe communion in the tongue was more contagious than in the hand, but i did some research and changed my mind. Also, specialists in immunology advising the Archidiose of Portland stated that: "The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is equally probable and one’s hands have a greater exposure to germs.”
Solange Issa - 05/25/2020 04:44 PM
I’m so happy about the news, mostly because Bishop Thomáz Wenski is not preventing people to have communion on the tongue! He’s just doing what’s right! Thank you so much for that!
Ralph - 05/25/2020 03:00 PM
I understand the concern that everybody’s expressed in regarding safety. However, canon law is very clear on this. And there is ample evidence showing that communion in the hand is actually more hazardous than communion on the tongue.
Mike Periu - 05/25/2020 02:30 PM
I thought this post would be FILLED with messages of gratitude towards our Bishop! I am grateful! I am very surprised to see so many comments specifically directed at denying Catholics their canonical right to recieve Communion on the tongue. Reception on the tongue is the norm throughout the Church while reception in the hand is "permitted" but is not the norm. The CDW provides provisions for denying reception in the HAND (if it fears sacrilege will occur) but there is no similar provision for denying communion on the tongue for any reason. If Extraordinary Ministers do not feel comfortable distributing Communion according to the rights of the faithful they should in good conscience recuse themselves from serving. It is also an assumption that reception in the hand is somehow safer than on the tongue. The Catholic Medical Association in March made a public declaration about this and confirms that reception on the tongue should continue. In past pandemics this issue has come up and the same conclusion has been drawn: there is no medical reason to violate Church law and deny communion in the hand.
Maria Elena Ponce - 05/24/2020 07:03 PM
I feel that for the safety and peace of mind of everyone, it should be mandatory for all to receive Holy Communion in the hand. In my opinion, even if the Priest is trained to correctly give Holy Communion in the mouth, I don't trust the person receiving it. All it takes is the wrong move of the person's tongue/mouth and the Priest and others could be placed at risk of getting infected. It will sure make me feel a lot better and safer about receiving Holy Communion, if everyone was receiving it in the hand. Thank you,
Aurora Maristany - 05/24/2020 01:40 PM
I am extremely happy to be able to go back to daily mass at 8:30 am. However, after reading that the communion will also be distributed in the tongue I am very concern about receiving communion. I think ministers should have clean hands, wear masks when distributing communion and never should It be distributed in the tongue. I will not receive communion under these guide lines unless there is a separate line for hands only and ministers wearing masks while distributing. Thank you for allowing me to express my concerns.
Rosi Cervera Canton - 05/23/2020 04:06 PM
Please, do not be afraid! If you are lucky enough to be able to receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood (if possible) of Christ, how can you be so concerned of how you receive it. If you really believe the Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, do you think "the virus" can be transmitted through Him?
Terry S. - 05/23/2020 01:31 PM
In the links below I read from the Archbishop: “Communion will not be given under both species; only under the form of bread. “I am not mandating Communion only in the hand — as Communion on the tongue if done properly doesn’t involve touching the communicant or his/her tongue,” the archbishop told his priests.” This last sentence will thus sadly prevent me from receiving the Holy Eucharist now, to not risk accidental saliva on finger from delivery to tongue which does happen. This decision needs to be re-thought for all our safety.
Josue Luis Hernandez - 05/23/2020 11:29 AM
This is unacceptable. Your Excellency, open wide the Churches! Those who are afraid of this nonsense can stay home.
Martha Chipi - 05/23/2020 07:30 AM
Blessings to all. Fear and anxiety is not of God. I’ve revived both species for over 40 years, sharing the chalice with hundreds of people, as a Eucharistic minister drinking the very last drop of it, as IT is the blood of Christ and Never got sick. Of course the apostles received the host in their hands, for the Lord had already bestowed upon them the sacrament of Priesthood. Pope John Paul II, mother Theresa, padre Pio, all asked of us to receive it in the tongue in reverence to the Body of the Christ. May the Lord have mercy on us and the whole world.
Michel de Jesús - 05/22/2020 08:59 PM
My beloved brothers and sisters: President Donald Trump has deemed houses of prayer essential services and he is calling the pastors to open all churches this weekend. Blessed be the Lord.
joseph flores - 05/22/2020 04:15 PM
My Brothers and Sister in Christ The Holy Mass is not a gathering to celebrate a Meal with our fellow brethrens. The Holy sacrifice of Mass is reliving our Lord and savior Passion. We are with Our Lord in Golgotha in Hes final moment before he surrenders Hes spirit to secure our salvation. Let keep in mind that when the Priest says the words of consecration "HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEA" The bread truly becomes the Body of our Lord. So let's treat the body of Our Lord with reverence and receive on our knees and in the tongue. Remember the Holy sacrifice of the Mass is not about US its about Our Lord. My God have mercy on us in this hard times.
Elena Muñoz - 05/22/2020 02:29 PM
As many people have expressed, I am also against receiving communion on the tongue, even before the pandemic. We are not newborns that need to have food placed in our mouths. I respect people who like to receive it that way thinking it is more respectful or because it is the way they have always done it. But in these times they should think about the risk to the health of others. After all, at the last supper Jesus didn’t place the bread on his disciples’ tongues. But even on the hands it carries a risk of infection. The priest or Communion minister is touching everyone’s hands and passing whatever it can catch to the others, but at least the risk is not as great. Maybe there should be a line for people who receive communion on the tongue and a separate one for the ones that will receive it on the hands by a different minister. Some people are not considering this pandemic seriously until themselves or a loved one gets sick.
Silvia M Munoz - 05/22/2020 01:54 PM
I am very happy that our churches are opening soon however, very sad that communion would still be distributed in the tongue. By this, you are opening the gate to more people getting sick and preventing those of us, who are older and therefore more vulnerable to getting the corona virus, from receiving communion. After so many weeks of not worshiping with my community and not being nourished by the Body of Christ, Archbishop Wenski is preventing me from doing just that. I have been a Communion Minister for many years and, no matter how careful you are, there is always some saliva getting on your fingers. I beg Archbishop Wenski to take this into consideration and prohibit the reception of the Eucharist in the tongue until this pandemic is over.
Frank M - 05/22/2020 12:22 PM
I too am concerned about the Priests distributing Communion on the tongue. Even if there is no physical contact, the Communicant may be breathing on the Priest's fingers. Even if the Communicant does not breathe on the Priest's hands directly, the mere act of breathing without a facemask will propel aerosols onto the Priests hands and also into the air that the next Communicant may breathe in when he or she moves forward on line. Please reconsider allowing Communion on the tongue.
Appolonia S - 05/21/2020 12:49 PM
Communion on the tongue should not be allowed. The germs are not only on the tongue. Once the person opens their mouth they could be spreading the germs into the air.
Marta Prado - 05/20/2020 12:59 PM
I am very happy to be able to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. However, I would not receive communion from a Minister of Communion after someone received it on the tongue. I believe the risk of contagion is much greater. Would there be a special line for people who have such a concern as mine? My conscience would not permit me to take such a risk.
Mike Periu - 05/19/2020 11:26 PM
This is wonderful news! I hope everyone out of charity respects the norms you have indicated in your letter. I am especially grateful that there will be no interference with the reception of Communion on the tongue, allowing us to exercise our canonical right to recieve in this way.
Michel de Jesús - 05/19/2020 08:00 PM
Great news! It is in moments like this that we need to be together in prayer and present physically in the house of adoration. What some brothers do not seem to understand is that God is more powerful than anything. Give yourselves to God. Fear not!!! We need the communion. It carries the same risk if is in the tongue or in the hands. Priests know they need to be extra careful. Please stop putting comments that may lead to restrictions or doubts. If you don’t agree with this simply stay home. and pray from home. And comments with fears only mislead other faithful. God wants us united and ready to receive Him. Of course, common sense says that if you’re sick you stay home. What we need more and more is prayer to defeat the fear which is from Satan and he wants us all to be afraid and to abandon church and prayer. When in history of Christianity have churches been closed for so long? And we have done so in obedience but that’s it. Do not be afraid beloved brothers and sisters. God is with us all. May Jesus Christ outpours the Holy Spirit this Pentecost upon His church. God bless us all. Love❤️
Esperanza Abinsay - 05/19/2020 05:53 PM
I am very happy to hear this good news- reopening of public masses in the church. I agree with all the safety guidelines, however the receiving of communion in the tongue is a big question for me. Sometimes a person sticks out the tongue too much and too fast that it touches the minister's fingers. I am a Eucharistic minister and I know that this incident happens,even if we try to be careful. I am a nurse too, and I know that touching the tongue of someone exposes the minister to the saliva of others, which carries the corona virus. I hope and pray that you will take this into a prayerful reconsideration of this issue. Thank you very much and may God bless and protect us all
Lisa Kubis - 05/19/2020 05:49 PM
I am so happy and a little concerned but we need to start sometime. We just need to practice social distancing and respect each other. Now we can start planning confirmations and first communion! God is Good@
Jean Perez - 05/19/2020 03:36 PM
Great news! One thing I have to disrespectfully disagree with is the part of allowing communion on the tongue since "if done properly doesn’t involve touching the communicant or his/her tongue,” that is simply not true. I have been an extraordinary Eucharistic minister for several years and I can control what I do but I cant control how the one receiving does. Some people move forward suddenly and many other sudden things that it would be impossible to control.
Sandi LeBel - 05/19/2020 10:18 AM
Beautifully written letter by our Archbishop, and uplifting article by reporter Ana. Thank you for your discernment. My heart rejoices.
Bernardo R Garcia-Granda, M.D. - 05/19/2020 09:39 AM
Amid all the negative news we have become used to by now during this pandemic, we read that Pope Francis had celebrated his first public mass on Sunday and tourists were welcomed back into St. Peter's Basilica. Then came the unexpected email last night from our archbishop announcing the openings of our parishes to celebrate mass once again, notwithstanding new and more strict regulations in keeping with the safety of all parishioners. It is with great joy that we welcome the news, which will allow us to participate on this upcoming Feast of Pentecost. "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirt and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth." Amen

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