Archbishop Hebda suspends public Masses to help curb coronavirus spread

| March 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

From left, Sally Ennis and her daughters Lucy McClure and Mary Ennis talk after the 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul March 18. Late the same day, Archbishop Bernard Hebda has suspended all public Masses in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Sensing it might happen, the three corresponded at 4:30 and agreed to meet at the Cathedral and sit together for Mass. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Faced with an ever-increasing need to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Archbishop Bernard Hebda March 18 suspended Sunday and other public celebrations of the Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Given both the moral impossibility of attending Mass, as well as the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass that was extended to the faithful of the archdiocese last week, please rest assured that the missing of Mass in these conditions should not weigh on your conscience,” the archbishop said in a public letter to the faithful.

State officials have told religious leaders that the next two weeks are critical for containment of the virus and the illness it causes, COVID-19, the archbishop said.

“It pains my heart to have to make this decision since I know how many of you deeply love the Mass as I do,” Archbishop Hebda said. “This decision will be re-evaluated in two weeks’ time in light of any local developments and the latest advice of civil authorities and experts.”

Limited exceptions for funerals and weddings will be granted, if they follow strict guidelines established by the archdiocese and shared with priests and deacons, the archbishop said.

“The priests of the archdiocese will gratefully continue to offer Masses daily for the good of the faithful and for an end to this health crisis,” Archbishop Hebda said. “While unable to attend in person, the faithful are encouraged to be spiritually united with the priest celebrants as they pray for the strengthening of this local Church. I am grateful that many parishes have already found ways to broadcast the Mass and other spiritual devotions online, over the radio, or on TV, allowing the faithful to be remotely present at Mass in these challenging times and to make a spiritual communion. Options for Mass and prayer resources may be found at archspm.org/covid19.”

Priests of the archdiocese also are exploring with people of their parishes ways to offer limited public celebrations of the Mass at the parish or archdiocesan level that would respect the recommendations of health officials, the archbishop said.

Priests and deacons are committed to expanding possibilities for adoration and private prayer, moving adoration, where necessary, to larger church spaces to facilitate appropriate social distancing, Archbishop Hebda said.

In addition, confessions will continue to be heard in parishes, with appropriate precautions and adaptions, he said. Priests also will continue to respond to sacramental emergencies and provide anointing and Viaticum to the extent possible, the archbishop said.

“Please do not hesitate to contact your local parish to make them aware of any sacramental needs for the sick or the dying,” he said.

The archbishop’s announcement came on the same day he requested the faithful of the archdiocese to join him in fasting, abstinence and prayer during this health emergency.

“I invite you to consider the upcoming ‘fast’ from the Eucharist as a way to draw ever closer to our Lord, especially as we experience a more intense longing for Jesus, present in the Eucharist,” he said.

“During this time of eucharistic fasting, I would encourage each of us to offer intercessory prayer each day for the health and safety of our community, especially healthcare workers, and to join in solidarity with the many Catholics throughout the world who regularly are unable to receive Communion, due to persecution or to an absence of priests,” he said.

The archbishop asked for prayers for those who have died from COVID-19 and those who mourn them, those who are sick and those who care for them. He also sought prayers for Gov. Tim Walz and State Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, and all those who work to keep people safe.

“May Mary, consoler of the afflicted, keep us close to each other and to the loving heart of her son,” the archbishop said.

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