Archbishop: No public Masses, church gatherings until at least April 9

| March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

There will continue to be no public Masses or other gatherings in parishes and schools through at least April 9, Archbishop Hebda said in a March 25 statement following Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order for Minnesotans to stay at home for two weeks, beginning Friday.

The governor’s order aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We as a Catholic community in this difficult time must do our part to come together to minimize the virus’ impact on those who have the virus and on our courageous health care personnel and the facilities where they serve the growing number of our sisters and brothers who need their help,” Archbishop Hebda said in a message to pastors and parish administrators. He said priests should not encourage gatherings that conflict with the governor’s order.

Archbishop Hebda suspended Mass in the archdiocese March 18, noting he would reevaluate the situation in two weeks, around April 1. The governor’s new orders extend that suspension by at least eight days.

Archbishop Hebda encouraged parishes to continue to livestream or broadcast liturgies, noting that a “necessary support team is permissible in a sanctuary,” and said that churches may be left open when possible for “essential pastoral care” that follows social distancing.

“Priests are encouraged to administer the sacraments in cases of serious need and on an individual basis,” he said.

The archbishop did not mention how the orders would affect drive-through confessions, which priests in some parishes have made available to follow social distancing recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocesan Catholic Center will be closed, but staff will be available by phone or email.

Expectations for funerals is unclear, Archbishop Hebda said, noting that his team will provide an update when more information is available from the State of Minnesota.

“It is critical for the common good that we do everything we possibly can to minimize the risk to others and to ourselves, which means simply staying home as much as possible,” he said. “I know this is difficult for all of us, but it seems critical in order to buy time for the health care needs of our state to be met. Embracing these restrictions is very difficult Lenten penance for us. We will try as we are able to provide spiritual guidance through our continued online presence. We also ask parishioners to be especially attentive to their neighbors — it is amazing how much a phone call might mean in these days.”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis “is blessed with so many parishes, schools, religious orders, and lay apostolates,” he said. “Even though we will be physically isolated the next two week(s), through the Holy Spirit we are still united together as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. During this intense Lenten desert experience, we have the opportunity to live our faith in new and creative ways.

“I pray that each of us might be able to turn to the Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady, Comfort of the Afflicted and Help of the Sick, to find ways to enter spiritually into an ever-deeper communion with each other and our entire local Church.”

In his March 25 news conference, Walz mentioned consulting with Archbishop Hebda earlier that day.

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