Churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be closed to the public until at least April 19 as part of updated guidelines aimed at helping stem the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).
The “extraordinary steps” announced by Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez late Tuesday also include closing parish offices to the public and suspending regular confession times.
“Our community of faith is fully committed to doing all we can to limit the spread of this global public health threat,” said the Archbishop in a statement March 24. “We are taking these extraordinary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the faithful and the public, as well as all who continue to serve in our parishes and ministries.”
The updated guidelines also call for every parish in the Archdiocese to ring their bells at 12 and 6 p.m. daily “as a sign of solidarity and hope.”
“Now more than ever, we must continue to anchor our hearts and minds in the abiding truth of God’s love for us, His sons and daughters,” the Archbishop said. “We remain strong in faith knowing that God will be with us always.”
The guidelines allow for priests to perform the sacraments of confession, anointing of the sick, and baptism in cases of emergency, provided they follow proper sanitary protocols.
Archbishop Gomez repeated his call encouraging LA Catholics to “join in communion” for the celebration of Mass remotely via internet livestream, television, or radio following the suspension of public Masses announced March 16.
Here is a summarized overview of the updated guidelines:
- Parish churches, chapels, centers, and missions are to be closed to the public effective March 24, 2020 until April 19, 2020 (inclusive), or until further notice.
- Church offices are to be closed to the public. Pastors may allow a minimal number of parish staff members (less than 10) to continue working in the office provided that social distancing is observed.
- Parishes equipped with a bell system are invited to ring their church bells at 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM as a sign of solidarity and hope, in accordance with city noise ordinances.
- The public celebration of Mass has been suspended in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles until April 19, 2020, or until further notice. Priests are encouraged to continue celebrating Mass for their faithful, but in the form of a “Private Mass” (i.e. without a congregation) in their church or chapel to be livestreamed. One or two ministers may assist the Priest.
- Parishes are to cancel all Lenten penance services and suspend all regularly scheduled confession times.
- Priests may offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in danger of death or extremely extraordinary situations, in which case, parishioners are to make an appointment with the Priest. Please observe social distancing, while at the same time ensuring privacy for the penitent.
- Priests are to attend to the needs of those who ask for the Anointing of the Sick. If a priest is sick or considered to be a high-risk individual (e.g. above 65 years of age, suffers from respiratory conditions, immunocompromised, etc.), he should request assistance from another Priest.
- Priests attending to the needs of the sick are to observe all proper sanitary protocols.
- If desired by the person requesting the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, priests may hear the confession of the sick person and grant individual absolution.
- For the time being, sick calls and distribution of Holy Communion for the homebound are reserved to be done by priests only.
- Unless an emergency, the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism is to be postponed, including those which customarily take place at the Easter Vigil.
- The celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony from now until April 19, 2020 (inclusive), or until further notice, are to be postponed.
- The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation from now until April 19, 2020 (inclusive), or until further notice, are postponed. The Office of the Confirming Prelate will contact parishes with Confirmations scheduled during the affected dates. Rescheduling will be handled at a later time.
- Funerals may take place only in the form of “The Rite of Committal with Final Commendation” (also known as the “graveside service”) at the cemetery. If desired by the family, a memorial Mass can be scheduled appropriately at a later date.
- It is recommended that pastors notify family members who have already scheduled funeral Masses.
- Archbishop Gomez will celebrate the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral on April 6, 2020. Instead of attending, priests and the faithful are encouraged to view the Cathedral’s livestream of the Mass. Additionally, the Archbishop will celebrate the liturgies of the Sacred Paschal Triduum at the Cathedral that will also be livestreamed.
- The annual Blessing of the Animals Celebration at Olvera Street has been postponed.