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April 2, 2020. Catholic Bishops of Ohio Extend Suspension of All Publicly Celebrated Masses/Liturgies

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today (April 2, 2020) Governor Mike DeWine extended the executive “Stay at Home Order” to continue to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in the State of Ohio. Out of deep concern for the common good, as well as the physical and spiritual well-being of all the people of Ohio, the Catholic Bishops of Ohio have agreed once again to cooperate with the governor’s direction.

To that end, the Catholic Bishops of Ohio extend the temporary suspension of all publicly celebrated Masses/liturgies at least through and including Sunday May 3rd. The Bishops of Ohio dispense the Catholic faithful who reside in their respective dioceses and all other Catholics currently in Ohio from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass during this time period.

This decision has not been taken lightly and, as your bishops, together with you, we recognize the sacrifice we are called to make by being physically distanced from the Holy Eucharist and from one another.

Trusting in the graces flowing from the celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord, we remain mindful of the hope that does not disappoint. As your bishops, we continue to encourage you to keep holy the Lord’s Day by participating in Sunday Mass by way of televised, live-streamed, or radio broadcast options and making a spiritual communion. Keeping in mind the gift of plenary indulgences offered to us by the Church, we encourage all the faithful to turn to the Church’s treasury of prayer, praying as a family or individually the rosary, divine mercy chaplet, the Liturgy of the Hours and Stations of the Cross, etc.

Please join us in praying for all who are suffering from the Coronavirus, for all health care workers and first responders, and for an easing of the anxiety and tension caused by this pandemic. Relying on the Motherly care of Our Lady, Health of the Sick, we unite our sufferings to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we trust in the glorious hope of His resurrection.

Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr Archbishop of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Joseph R. Binzer Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan Bishop of Columbus
Most Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton Bishop of Steubenville
Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J. Bishop of Youngstown
Rev. Donald P. Oleksiak Diocesan Administrator of Cleveland
Most Rev. Daniel E. Thomas Bishop of Toledo
Most Rev. J. Michael Botean Romanian Eparchy of Canton
Most Rev. Bohdan J. Danylo Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat
Most Rev. Milan Lach, SJ Byzantine Eparchy of Parma

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After serious consideration of the grave health risk involved in public gatherings and in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, the bishops of Ohio have decided, effective immediately, to suspend temporarily all publicly celebrated Masses/liturgies, at least through the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter.

The bishops of Ohio dispense the Catholic faithful who reside in their respective dioceses and all other Catholics currently in Ohio from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass through Easter Sunday.

This decision is not taken lightly and, as your bishops, causes us great sadness. However, after consultation with the governor and health officials we are convinced that this is the most prudent and necessary action.

Science has proven that participation in public gatherings significantly increases the risk of contagion. This poses a serious danger to those especially most vulnerable.

As Catholics, in every Sunday Mass we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. In this moment, we are experiencing in a unique way the passion of our Lord as this pandemic prevents us from gathering for the Sunday Eucharist. In this very difficult time, we encourage the faithful to turn to the Church’s treasury of prayer. Sunday remains a holy day, and we encourage the faithful to pray using the rich resources of our faith, including praying as a family or individually the rosary, divine mercy chaplet, the Liturgy of the Hours, stations of the cross, etc. We also urge you to participate in prayer by way of radio broadcast or televised or live-streamed Mass and make a spiritual communion.

Please join us in praying for all who are suffering from illness or disease of any kind, for all health care workers, and for an easing of the anxiety and tension caused by this situation. Relying on the Motherly care of Our Lady, we unite our sufferings to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our healing and our hope.

Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr Chairman Catholic Conference of Ohio, Archbishop of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Joseph R. Binzer Auxiliary Bishop Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan Bishop of Columbus
Most Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton Bishop of Steubenville
Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J. Bishop of Youngstown
Rev. Donald P. Oleksiak Diocesan Administrator of Cleveland
Most Rev. Daniel E. Thomas Bishop of Toledo

March 13, 2020
Keep the Sabbath Day
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As many of us, weeks ago, prepared our penance(s) for the penitential season of Lent, we did not envision an additional penance placed upon us in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. As your shepherd, I dispensed the faithful from their Sunday Mass obligation, but I did not abrogate the holy day of Sunday itself. Each Sunday celebrates and deepens our spiritual communion as members of the Body of Christ.
With fortitude and with steel determination we should continue to hold sacred each Sunday even in the absence of physically participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Prudence should be our guide through these days as we avoid large gatherings, yet we must remember we are neither helpless nor hopeless. The Lord Jesus still draws us close to his Most Sacred Heart and as fellow disciples we are invited to respond to his invitation in prayer and thanksgiving. There are numerous ways that we can celebrate the truth of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection: our salvation. We can participate in the television or online Mass (the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption live-streams the 10 am Sunday Mass). We can pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, make a Holy Hour (or two), or embrace a whole host of prayers in the Church’s spiritual treasury. Of course, being Sunday, we should refrain from servile work.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is fundamental to our faith and hope in eternal life with God. These days, especially on Sunday, may we remember and celebrate that you and I were created to do God’s work. Each Sunday should awaken our remembrance of God’s enduring love. Together we still can “keep the Sabbath day’ (Dt. 5:15) in a spirit of gratitude and joy.
Together, we celebrate that we are one family in Christ and we lift up each other in prayer this penitential season. Entrusting you and your family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of our beloved diocese, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Jeffrey M.Monforton
Bishop of Steubenville

Permanent Deacon Paul D. Ward, director, diocesan Office of Christian Formation and Schools, and superintendent of Catholic schools, has announced: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated March 12 in a press conference that schools across the state of Ohio will have an extended spring break because of coronavirus concerns. Public, private and charter schools will be out for three weeks beginning March 16 at the end of school. After a discussion with the other Catholic Dioceses in the state of Ohio, and some local public districts, and with the approval of the Father James M. Dunfee, vicar general, all school extracurricular activities will be postponed or canceled during the state mandated school shut down. No school sponsored athletic or academic competitions or practices of any kind, indoor or outdoor shall be held, not even optional practices. Spring sports practices and competitions may only resume after April 3 (assuming Governor DeWine does not extend the school closure time period). The diocesan Holy Triduum policy will also remain in effect, despite the late start the students will have in the season. In addition, the Tournament of Truth will be postponed until further notice. Theology of the Body training will be postponed as well.
The state of Ohio does expect learning to continue during this time, stating, “During this extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means and school district leadership may make decisions on whether to use their school buildings. Staff members should continue to report to school as directed by administrators.” School buildings may still be used for various things. Attendance must be under 100 people.
More information is expected to be announced soon.

Dear Friends in Christ,
This afternoon Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order regarding the avoidance of large
mass gatherings to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio
Even though religious gatherings are expressly excluded in the order, the Catholic bishops of Ohio, out of concern for the common good and the physical as well as spiritual well-being of all of the people of Ohio, have agreed to cooperate with the governor’s direction to create “social distance”.
To that end, we dispense the Catholic faithful who reside in Ohio and all other Catholics currently in Ohio from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass for the weekends of March 14-15, March 21-22 and March 28-29.
Out of charity and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we encourage all the faithful, in
particular those who are sick, experiencing symptoms of illness, or are at risk of illness seriously to consider refraining from Mass attendance. As much as possible, we would like to see parish Mass schedules remain unchanged to allow the faithful to offer worship to almighty God and receive the great grace of the sacraments during this trying time; however, we recognize that this may not be possible because many of our senior priests may themselves be at risk. We ask for understanding and flexibility in this regard.
Please join us in praying for all who are suffering from illness or disease of any kind, and for an easing of the tension caused by this situation. May Our Lady of Lourdes, Health of the Sick and Mother of Mercy, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide and protect us all.
Respectfully,
Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr
Chairman
Catholic Conference of Ohio
Archbishop of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Joseph R. Binzer
Auxiliary Bishop
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan
Bishop of Columbus
Most Rev. Jeffrey Monforton
Bishop of Steubenville
Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J.
Bishop of Youngstown
Rev. Donald P. Oleksiak
Diocesan Administrator of Cleveland
Most Rev. Daniel E. Thomas
Bishop of Toledo

As many people are very concerned about the potential spread of the Coronavirus, the USCCB Committee on Divine worship issued certain recommendations, and Bishop Monforton has asked us to follow these recommendations:

1. All ministers should wash their hands before Mass and may use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. As you recall, we have provided individual bottles of hand sanitizers for our Extra­ Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We encourage these individuals to not only use this before distributing Communion, but we are now encouraging them to use this after Communion for self-protection.

2. If you have symptoms of some illness you are not obliged to attend Mass. You commit no sin by staying at home while you have the symptoms or are ill. It would be considered an act of charity if you did not come to Mass while you have the symptoms of an illness.

3. Bishop Monforton has suspended the sign of peace during Mass. You know how different flu seasons we have encouraged people not to shake hands, but this quickly is forgotten. Therefore, we are suspending the sign of peace until we are given official permission to reinstate this practice.

4. Along with this physical contact, I will not be shaking hands as you come into or leave Mass. Not so much out of concern for myself , because I can readily sanitize my hands. I don’t want to be the agent that passes an illness from one person to the next. If I shake the hands of 50% of you, that would be the same as you shaking hands with half of the congregation.

5. Bishop Monforton has suspended the distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice except for those who are celiac. This does not change our practice for distribution of Communion on the weekend, but does change our practice for daily Mass. Though many times it has been demonstrated that the reception from the cup does not spread illness, we want to avoid any semblance of a possibility of this happening.

6. Please remember to follow the best hygenic practices of washing hands, and coughing in the elbow.

7. We want to be proactive in avoiding diseases. Once an illness begins to spread it is too late to put these practices in place. Let us practice good health practices.


Government Announcements and Official Information Sources – Click on the Links Below

State and Local Sources (Ohio)

Ohio Department of Health: COVID-19
https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/

Jefferson County Health Department Facebook Page – Latest Local Information
https://www.facebook.com/Jeffersoncountyhealthdepartment/


National Sources

For the most up to date coverage of 2019 Novel Coronavirus as it becomes available along with  updated guidance, visit https://www.cdc.gov/

Risks and Symptoms: What you need to know
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

How Coronavirus Spreads
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index

COVID-19 Combined information from multiple federal agencies
https://www.coronavirus.gov/