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The Church's Liturgical Response to Coronavirus

Updated: Mar 13

Update: 3/13/2020

Bishop Lucia issues Dispensation from the Obligation to Attend Sunday Mass


Most Reverend Douglas J. Lucia issued new directives relating to the celebration of Mass.  The Revised Liturgical Response to the Coronavirus was shared with all pastors and staff among the seven counties of the Diocese of Syracuse and can be found on the diocesan website. As we continue to monitor the coronavirus, the directives may be modified.


Additionally, for the health, safety and well-being of our faith community, the Diocese of Syracuse announces the following in response to the coronavirus:


Masses throughout the Diocese of Syracuse will continue to be offered at this time.


However, due to the serious health crisis caused by the coronavirus, Bishop Lucia hereby dispenses Catholics in the Diocese of Syracuse from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass beginning immediately until further notice (Code of Canon Law, c. 87). Those with underlying health conditions are especially encouraged to remain at home.


Bishop Lucia asks that those who do refrain from attending Mass due to illness join the faithful of the diocese in praying the Novena Prayer for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, devote some time to meditating on the word of God, observe Mass on television or the internet, and/or pray the Rosary insofar as this is possible.


The Diocese of Syracuse has been in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is actively following the directive of the county public health departments to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries, and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).


While there are currently no confirmed cases in any of the seven counties of our diocese, we are still taking every necessary precaution. If confirmed cases begin to arise, the diocese has additional plans that it will put into effect. At this time, the following are to be observed:


Bishop Lucia mandates all parishes and high school and campus ministries to make the following adjustments to liturgical practices:


  • Clean surfaces and other facilities as frequently as possible

  • Avoid coming to church (e.g., Mass, confirmation, Lenten missions, etc.) with common symptoms of illness (e.g., fever, cough, body aches) or if vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus (e.g., those with chronic illness, and those with immune system deficiencies)

(There is no obligation to attend Mass when ill – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181. A dispensation has been granted by Bishop Lucia to those who are vulnerable – Code of Canon Law 1983, c. 1245)


  • Empty holy water fonts and keep them completely dry

(Holy water may be obtained by the faithful from a large dispenser with a tap or spout using individual bottles)


  • Refrain from the non-liturgical practice of holding hands during the recitation of the Our Father

  • Omit the Sign of Peace or exchange it without physical contact

  • Suspend distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ from the chalice to the faithful

  • Practice good hygiene, particularly when distributing Holy Communion

  • Refrain from the non-liturgical practice of priests and deacons placing handson the heads of children or adults when blessing those who are not receiving Communion

  • Limit to the priest alone the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue at the end of the communion line for those who still wish to receive in this manner

  • Clean all liturgical vessels with soap and water after each Mass, including any pyx that is taken to a nursing home, hospital, the homebound, etc.

  • Greet priests or deacons after Mass without physical contact


Bishop Lucia strongly recommends that all parishes and high school and campus ministries take the following liturgical precautionary measures:


  • Ensure that maintenance staff or volunteers wipe down pew railings, hymn books, door handles, restroom surfaces, etc. after each Mass

  • Use hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes as part of good hygiene practices

  • Set up a secure, stationary collection basket where parishioners can place their offertory gifts before Mass

  • Provide collection counters with sterile gloves when counting the offertory collection

  • Receive Holy Communion reverently on the hand or approach the priest alone to receive Holy Communion on the tongue at the end of the communion line

  • Take all necessary precautions when visiting the sick or homebound

  • Refrain from visiting those who are quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), unless by a priest for the purpose of celebrating the sacraments in danger of death

Bishop Lucia asks those who receive a positive test result for the coronavirus (COVID-19) or have been in direct contact with an individual with a confirmed case to contact the office of the chancellor to inform the diocese of this exposure. In response to this information the diocese will work to implement a mitigation plan that could include the closure and cleaning of some or all facilities


Novena Prayer for an end to the Coronavirus Pandemic


O Mary, full of grace, Patroness of this nation and Mother of the Church, in this time of illness and worldwide need we seek your intercession for the human family before your Son’s throne of grace and mercy. We ask for strength in adversity, health in weakness, and comfort in sorrow. Help us, O Blessed Mother, to be filled with confidence and trust in the tender compassion of our God. Let us not be afraid, like our own Saint Marianne Cope, who entrusted her life and ministry among the outcasts of society into the care of our Divine Physician. Continue to watch over all who are sick as well as those who care for them and give wisdom to all who are seeking a cure.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.


Sample Petitions from the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship


For those who are suffering in the current outbreak of sickness that they might be healed, and for the happy repose of all who have died from this sickness in recent weeks; let us pray to the Lord.


For scientists, health professionals, public officials, and all who are serving the common good in this difficult and uncertain time, that they will be filled with wisdom and understanding; let us pray to the Lord.


That in times of illness our merciful and loving Father will strengthen our faith and trust in his goodness and divine providence; let us pray to the Lord.


That our compassionate Father would touch all affected by the current outbreak with healing and peace; let us pray to the Lord.

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