Liturgical and pastoral directives in a time of pandemic

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., promulgates directives for coming Church feasts and seasons
January 12, 2021 at 9:30 p.m.
Liturgical and pastoral directives in a time of pandemic
Liturgical and pastoral directives in a time of pandemic


DIOCESE 0F TRENTON

LITURGICAL AND PASTORAL DIRECTIVES IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC

PROMULGATED JANUARY 10, 2021

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

 

The following directives are provided to the clergy of the Diocese of Trenton to assist them to carry out their liturgical and pastoral roles to safeguard the health of all those who frequent religious services during this pandemic.  They provide guidance for services from the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 through Holy Week 2021 as well as other pastoral practices.  These directives may be revised or changed as pandemic circumstances require.

 

GENERAL NORMS

Since COVID-19 remains a virulent contagious respiratory virus communicated between people, everyone should remain aware that risks to contract or spread the disease are possible at any gathering of people, whether indoors or outdoors.  We cannot and should not let down our guard no matter what pressure is being exerted upon us. Public health officials and other experts consider the risk to be especially significant indoors at prolonged, sedentary gatherings where coughing, sneezing, and even talking and singing could easily communicate the coronavirus   

Those with a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms, those who have tested COVID positive, those who may be asymptomatic carriers, those with underlying health conditions or who are in a high-risk category, those not feeling well or frightened, should avoid public gatherings of any kind in general and in church in particular. Such persons should remain at home and take advantage of Masses that are televised, on-line, or livestreamed by their parish.  In light of these serious concerns, the dispensation from the Sunday/Holy Day obligation to attend Mass remains in effect until further notice by the Bishop.

All liturgical/pastoral directives previously approved and updated in the Diocese of Trenton remain in effect (one-third indoor Church occupancy; required wearing of masks and social distancing; ventilation as much as possible; sanitization of churches between Masses; no commonly shared hymnbooks, song sheets, missalettes or other materials ordinarily left in pews; coordinated entrances and exits; no gatherings outside of churches, etc.) with the following exception:

 

  • The distribution of printed materials [e.g., bulletins, calendars, etc.]
  • These may be distributed/provided at the end of Mass at the discretion of the pastor but must not be shared and must be taken with the faithful upon exiting church.
  • Bulletins, in particular, if available in paper format, should only be distributed and taken upon exiting the church; online bulletins are preferable since the coronavirus remains on paper for anywhere between one and five days.
  • If missalettes are provided, they should be retained as a personal copy and not shared with or handled by others.
  • No materials are to be left in the pews and, if found, should be quickly discarded 
  • These directives are to be determined and implemented by the pastor.

 

OTHER PARTICULAR CURRENT NORMS 

The following current directives are to be observed:

  • Choral Singing and Use of Instruments, (Due to the respiratory nature of COVID transmission)
  • All current protocols remain in effect.
  • Choirs are most strongly discouraged and choral singing should be significantly limited.
  • No use of wind instruments.
  • Leaders of song/cantors must socially distance and wear a mask as appropriate to their participation.

  • Liturgical Ministers
  • The number liturgical ministers at Mass should be kept at a minimum.
  • Pastors/priests should discourage congregating in the sacristy before and after services.

  • Livestreaming
  • The practice of livestreaming/pre-recording Mass and other liturgical celebrations is strongly encouraged whenever possible.

 

DIRECTIVES FOR UPCOMING LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS

As noted above, the following protocols may change depending on conditions brought about by the pandemic.  Notification of changes will be communicated by the Diocese and parishes as soon as possible.

 

  • Feast of the Presentation of the Lord “Candlemas” [February 2]
  • The traditional procession with lighted candles is prohibited this year.
  • Blessed candles are not to be distributed to the faithful before, during or after Mass. 
  • Encourage the faithful to bring their own candles to church to be blessed.


  • Memorial of St. Blaise [February 3]
  • No individual blessings of throats involving any physical contact is permitted.
  • The celebrant should impart a general blessing to the assembly using the traditional formula (“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr …”).
  • The use of candles is unnecessary; if used, the celebrant alone extends the candles over the whole congregation while reciting the general blessing.

 

  • Ash Wednesday [February 17]
  • Pastors are encouraged to remind the faithful that the Church has never obliged attendance at Mass or the imposition of ashes on this day.
  •  Imposing ashes in the usual manner is forbidden.
  • Sprinkling of ashes on the top of the head [the “Roman custom”] is not customary in the U.S. and is inadvisable.
  • Recommended Method: Placing a little water in the ashes will facilitate marking the foreheads of the faithful with the use of a QTip.
  • Priests, deacons (and only if necessary, other ministers) should sanitize hands before and after imposition of ashes.
  • A new QTip must be used with every person [as currently done with anointings].
  • While ashes are to be blessed after the homily of the Mass or service, they should only be imposed at the conclusion of the Mass prior to the departure of the faithful.

 

  • Lenten Devotions

Stations of the Cross

  • The faithful, masked and socially distanced, should remain in the pews.
  • Booklets should not be provided.
  • “Living Stations” are not to be conducted.
  • Outdoor Stations are to follow the proper protocols.
  • Livestreamed or pre-recorded “Stations” are encouraged.

Missions / Retreats

  • Virtual or livestreamed alternatives should be considered.
  • These should follow current protocols.


  • Rite of Election [February 21]
  • The Bishop has delegated all pastors to celebrate the Rite of Election in parishes according to materials distributed by the Office of Worship.

 

  • Passion [Palm] Sunday [March 28]
  • The “Procession” and “Solemn Entrance” are to be omitted.
  • Use Third Form: the “Simple Entrance” at all Masses.
  • Palms are not to be given to the people prior to or during Mass.
  • Place palms in large vase-like containers in the sanctuary where they can be seen by the congregation.
  • After Mass, the ushers/servers should carry these containers at the entrances so that people may take palms as they exit the church.
  • The manner of reading the Passion Narrative is left to the Pastor’s discretion.

 

  • Chrism Mass: The time/place/format for the Chrism Mass will be communicated in a separate memorandum.There will be no dinner (for the Bishop and priests) held this year.

 

  • Holy Thursday [April 1]
  • The Holy Oils, if blessed prior to Holy Thursday, may be displayed but not carried in procession.
  • The Mandatum “Washing of the Feet” is to be omitted in all parishes this year.
  • The transfer of the Holy Eucharist to the place of reposition should be simple.
  • The place of reposition should be in a large space [e.g., the church itself or a large hall].It should not be in a small chapel or room.
  • Seating should be in a designated area, observing social distancing.
  • Volunteers should be sought, if necessary, to help sanitize pews/chairs after the faithful exit church.
  • If volunteers are unavailable, signs should be posted directing the faithful to sanitize their pew/chair after private adoration.
  • The parish should provide the sanitizing products for visitors or volunteers.

 

  • Good Friday [April 2]
  • The manner of reading of the Passion Narrative is at the Pastor’s discretion.
  • The Solemn Intercessions should be read, not sung.
  • People are to remain at their places for the Veneration of the Cross.
  • After the Cross is brought to the sanctuary [Form I or II], the priest takes the Cross and, standing in the middle before the altar, invites the people to adore the Holy Cross.
  • Individual veneration of the Cross by any physical contact is prohibited.
  • The Collection for the Holy Land should be taken up in the same manner as all other collections.

 

  • Holy Saturday [April 3]
  • The blessing of Easter food indoors is highly discouraged indoors; outdoor blessings may be arranged at the discretion of the Pastor.

 

  • Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday [April 3-4]            
  • Directives will be provided in a separate memorandum since liturgical directives from the Holy See are anticipated.

 

Approved and promulgated January 10, 2021.


Related Stories

DIOCESE 0F TRENTON

LITURGICAL AND PASTORAL DIRECTIVES IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC

PROMULGATED JANUARY 10, 2021

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

 

The following directives are provided to the clergy of the Diocese of Trenton to assist them to carry out their liturgical and pastoral roles to safeguard the health of all those who frequent religious services during this pandemic.  They provide guidance for services from the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 through Holy Week 2021 as well as other pastoral practices.  These directives may be revised or changed as pandemic circumstances require.

 

GENERAL NORMS

Since COVID-19 remains a virulent contagious respiratory virus communicated between people, everyone should remain aware that risks to contract or spread the disease are possible at any gathering of people, whether indoors or outdoors.  We cannot and should not let down our guard no matter what pressure is being exerted upon us. Public health officials and other experts consider the risk to be especially significant indoors at prolonged, sedentary gatherings where coughing, sneezing, and even talking and singing could easily communicate the coronavirus   

Those with a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms, those who have tested COVID positive, those who may be asymptomatic carriers, those with underlying health conditions or who are in a high-risk category, those not feeling well or frightened, should avoid public gatherings of any kind in general and in church in particular. Such persons should remain at home and take advantage of Masses that are televised, on-line, or livestreamed by their parish.  In light of these serious concerns, the dispensation from the Sunday/Holy Day obligation to attend Mass remains in effect until further notice by the Bishop.

All liturgical/pastoral directives previously approved and updated in the Diocese of Trenton remain in effect (one-third indoor Church occupancy; required wearing of masks and social distancing; ventilation as much as possible; sanitization of churches between Masses; no commonly shared hymnbooks, song sheets, missalettes or other materials ordinarily left in pews; coordinated entrances and exits; no gatherings outside of churches, etc.) with the following exception:

 

  • The distribution of printed materials [e.g., bulletins, calendars, etc.]
  • These may be distributed/provided at the end of Mass at the discretion of the pastor but must not be shared and must be taken with the faithful upon exiting church.
  • Bulletins, in particular, if available in paper format, should only be distributed and taken upon exiting the church; online bulletins are preferable since the coronavirus remains on paper for anywhere between one and five days.
  • If missalettes are provided, they should be retained as a personal copy and not shared with or handled by others.
  • No materials are to be left in the pews and, if found, should be quickly discarded 
  • These directives are to be determined and implemented by the pastor.

 

OTHER PARTICULAR CURRENT NORMS 

The following current directives are to be observed:

  • Choral Singing and Use of Instruments, (Due to the respiratory nature of COVID transmission)
  • All current protocols remain in effect.
  • Choirs are most strongly discouraged and choral singing should be significantly limited.
  • No use of wind instruments.
  • Leaders of song/cantors must socially distance and wear a mask as appropriate to their participation.

  • Liturgical Ministers
  • The number liturgical ministers at Mass should be kept at a minimum.
  • Pastors/priests should discourage congregating in the sacristy before and after services.

  • Livestreaming
  • The practice of livestreaming/pre-recording Mass and other liturgical celebrations is strongly encouraged whenever possible.

 

DIRECTIVES FOR UPCOMING LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS

As noted above, the following protocols may change depending on conditions brought about by the pandemic.  Notification of changes will be communicated by the Diocese and parishes as soon as possible.

 

  • Feast of the Presentation of the Lord “Candlemas” [February 2]
  • The traditional procession with lighted candles is prohibited this year.
  • Blessed candles are not to be distributed to the faithful before, during or after Mass. 
  • Encourage the faithful to bring their own candles to church to be blessed.


  • Memorial of St. Blaise [February 3]
  • No individual blessings of throats involving any physical contact is permitted.
  • The celebrant should impart a general blessing to the assembly using the traditional formula (“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr …”).
  • The use of candles is unnecessary; if used, the celebrant alone extends the candles over the whole congregation while reciting the general blessing.

 

  • Ash Wednesday [February 17]
  • Pastors are encouraged to remind the faithful that the Church has never obliged attendance at Mass or the imposition of ashes on this day.
  •  Imposing ashes in the usual manner is forbidden.
  • Sprinkling of ashes on the top of the head [the “Roman custom”] is not customary in the U.S. and is inadvisable.
  • Recommended Method: Placing a little water in the ashes will facilitate marking the foreheads of the faithful with the use of a QTip.
  • Priests, deacons (and only if necessary, other ministers) should sanitize hands before and after imposition of ashes.
  • A new QTip must be used with every person [as currently done with anointings].
  • While ashes are to be blessed after the homily of the Mass or service, they should only be imposed at the conclusion of the Mass prior to the departure of the faithful.

 

  • Lenten Devotions

Stations of the Cross

  • The faithful, masked and socially distanced, should remain in the pews.
  • Booklets should not be provided.
  • “Living Stations” are not to be conducted.
  • Outdoor Stations are to follow the proper protocols.
  • Livestreamed or pre-recorded “Stations” are encouraged.

Missions / Retreats

  • Virtual or livestreamed alternatives should be considered.
  • These should follow current protocols.


  • Rite of Election [February 21]
  • The Bishop has delegated all pastors to celebrate the Rite of Election in parishes according to materials distributed by the Office of Worship.

 

  • Passion [Palm] Sunday [March 28]
  • The “Procession” and “Solemn Entrance” are to be omitted.
  • Use Third Form: the “Simple Entrance” at all Masses.
  • Palms are not to be given to the people prior to or during Mass.
  • Place palms in large vase-like containers in the sanctuary where they can be seen by the congregation.
  • After Mass, the ushers/servers should carry these containers at the entrances so that people may take palms as they exit the church.
  • The manner of reading the Passion Narrative is left to the Pastor’s discretion.

 

  • Chrism Mass: The time/place/format for the Chrism Mass will be communicated in a separate memorandum.There will be no dinner (for the Bishop and priests) held this year.

 

  • Holy Thursday [April 1]
  • The Holy Oils, if blessed prior to Holy Thursday, may be displayed but not carried in procession.
  • The Mandatum “Washing of the Feet” is to be omitted in all parishes this year.
  • The transfer of the Holy Eucharist to the place of reposition should be simple.
  • The place of reposition should be in a large space [e.g., the church itself or a large hall].It should not be in a small chapel or room.
  • Seating should be in a designated area, observing social distancing.
  • Volunteers should be sought, if necessary, to help sanitize pews/chairs after the faithful exit church.
  • If volunteers are unavailable, signs should be posted directing the faithful to sanitize their pew/chair after private adoration.
  • The parish should provide the sanitizing products for visitors or volunteers.

 

  • Good Friday [April 2]
  • The manner of reading of the Passion Narrative is at the Pastor’s discretion.
  • The Solemn Intercessions should be read, not sung.
  • People are to remain at their places for the Veneration of the Cross.
  • After the Cross is brought to the sanctuary [Form I or II], the priest takes the Cross and, standing in the middle before the altar, invites the people to adore the Holy Cross.
  • Individual veneration of the Cross by any physical contact is prohibited.
  • The Collection for the Holy Land should be taken up in the same manner as all other collections.

 

  • Holy Saturday [April 3]
  • The blessing of Easter food indoors is highly discouraged indoors; outdoor blessings may be arranged at the discretion of the Pastor.

 

  • Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday [April 3-4]            
  • Directives will be provided in a separate memorandum since liturgical directives from the Holy See are anticipated.

 

Approved and promulgated January 10, 2021.

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