Churches may reopen for private prayer only, in compliance with public health guidelines, May 13

Categories: Bishop O'Connell,COVID19,News

Bishop O'ConnellFrom the Bishop’s May 11, 2020 instructions:


Phase One: “Reopening of Churches for Private Prayer beginning: May 13, 2020”

Common Directives to be Observed by All Parishes

  • Dispensation from Sunday/Holy Day obligation remains in force until further notice.
  • Pastors determine whether or not and when they can open their churches safely. 
  • No public Masses or other group liturgical/devotional celebrations until further notice.
  • Sacramental celebrations in church (baptisms, confirmations, ordinary schedule of confessions, weddings) continue to be postponed until further notice.
  • Live-streaming of Masses without congregations to continue.
  • Churches will be closed for private prayer and empty during live-streamed Masses and will be reopened for private prayer after Mass. 
  • Faithful from at risk groups as identified by CDC/NJ DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH should remain at home.
  • Regular sanitization of churches after use.
  • Limited days open for private prayer: at least Monday through Friday. 
  • Hours for private prayer in open church to be determined by pastor.
  • Limited number of visitors at one time (no more than 10) according to NJ state guidelines and social distancing (minimum of 6 feet between visitors) to be observed.
  • Areas/pews for seating to be reserved to facilitate cleaning afterward.
  • Wearing of masks required for all those making visits

Directives Determined by Individual Pastors 

  • Pastors determine whether or not and when they can open their churches safely.
  • Limit days/times open for private prayer: at least Monday through Friday. 
  • Coordinate “staggered hours” for open churches with pastors/parishes of deanery.
  • Designate a single entrance to control number of visitors; no gathering at entrance, steps or parking lots.
  • Close public restroom facilities as a preventive health measure and post closure on restroom doors; consider posting this on website.
  • Remove all worship aides, pamphlets, books and paper from church pews; provide no handouts.
  • Utilize a volunteer cleaning crew if possible. 
  • Encourage visitors to bring their own disinfectant wipes; provide trash receptacles at church entrance/exit.
  • Begin online searching for coronavirus deep cleaning services (for example, resources on CDC website). 
  • Parishes with multiple church sites should only open one site, preferably the larger one where social distancing is easier.
  • Post ALL directives in online parish bulletins, parish websites, social media and at church entrance.
  • If church is open on weekends, close one hour before live-streamed Mass time.