OGDENSBURG — Diocese of Ogdensburg Bishop Terry R. LaValley has “dispensed all the Catholic Faithful from the obligation to participate at Sunday Mass.”
A press release from the diocese said that the dispensation starts on March 18 and was issued due to the coronavirus pandemic and its “potential to spread rapidly and effect the most vulnerable of our society.”
In addition to the dispensation, all public gatherings for parish activities have been suspended.
“This was a difficult decision to make, and it was made knowing some of the faithful may be saddened or unhappy with the suspension of Mass and gatherings,” Bishop LaValley said in the press release. “It was also made with the hopes of ensuring the continued good health of the faithful, including our clergy. I feel we are working to protect all lives, especially the most vulnerable among us, by observing the recommendations to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. I hope and pray we can lift this suspension in time for Holy Week and Easter, but that decision will be made only after consideration of the information available to us closer to that time.”
Until the suspension on public Masses and gatherings is lifted:
n Priests are encouraged to celebrate the Mass in private.
n At the pastor’s discretion, churches may be open for personal prayer, though in the interest of avoiding large gatherings, prayer services and devotions such as the Stations of the Cross are to be suspended.
n If a church is open for personal prayer, care should be taken to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned daily, including all surfaces, and social distancing is maintained.
n Weddings, funerals and baptisms may proceed, but attendance should be limited to immediate family, and social distancing should be maintained. Fresh water should be used for each baptism. Emergency baptisms will continue to be conferred.
n Individual reception of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) should continue to be offered, but social distancing and precautions should be implemented during the administration of the Sacrament.
n Pastoral care, including the Anointing of the Sick, will still be available in emergency situations.
“We continue to monitor this situation, and we will provide further guidance when and if it becomes necessary,” Bishop LaValley said. “ Please keep each other, our clergy and all impacted by this pandemic, including patients, as well as medical professionals, emergency responders, researchers and policy makers, in your prayers during this difficult time.”