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Bill Jones, Editor
2:31 pm CDT March 20, 2020

The Catholic Church has announced further changes in response to a global coronavirus pandemic that has led to an increased emphasis on social distancing.

The Archdiocese of Chicago announced the Chrism Mass will not be celebrated publicly, nor will the annual Day of Reflection be held. But the Cardinal Blase Cupich and the auxiliary bishops are to celebrate Mass in Holy Name Cathedral, to be livestreamed at radiotv.archchicago.org/television/broadcast-masses.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper (without washing of the feet), the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil will be celebrated and streamed in a similar manner.

If and when the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated privately in one’s parish, it is not to include the ritual of the washing of feet. Holy oils are not to be distributed until the health crisis has abated, according to a press release issued March 19 by the church.

Similarly, Palm Sunday and Holy Week liturgies are not to be celebrated publicly by any parishes in the archdiocese. That even extends to outdoor happenings such as live Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. And there also will be no distribution of blessed palms, though priests may bless palms privately for later distribution at a time to be determined.

Easter sacraments for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults candidates and catechumens are to be postponed.

Communion services also have been put on hold.

On March 18, the archdiocese issued new guidelines regarding funerals and wakes, as well as reinforced the suspension of all public liturgies. Among the new guidelines, funerals can proceed with immediate family but should not exceed 10 people; social distancing of 6 feet should be observed; no physical contact is to take place; high-risk individuals are encouraged not to attend; and physical spaces in the church must be sanitized after use.

Viewings are only being conducted in cases in which the body has been embalmed, and similar restrictions to the funerals are to be observed. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes also are to be provided.

Committal is to take place at the gravesite, only with immediate family not to exceed 10 people, per the archdiocese. And no pre- or post-service social gatherings are allowed in parish buildings or on parish property.

The archdiocese also on March 20 announced Cardinal Cupich has asked parishes to ring bells five times a day as a call to prayer for groups impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning at 9 a.m. March 21. It is to continue every three hours each day, with the last bells to ring at 9 p.m. each evening. Each of the five prayer times daily are to be dedicated to a specific group particularly impacted by the pandemic.

The archdiocese announced it is to provide short prayer intentions on its website in three languages — English, Spanish and Polish — with a special intention of the day announced at the daily Mass aired on the archdiocesan website.

For more information about the prayer, visit archchicago.org.

The archdiocese on March 13 announced a confirmed COVID-19 case at St. Margaret of Scotland School in Chicago, noting the student involved also attended an all-school Mass on March 12 at St. Margaret of Scotland Church. Both the school and church were shut down immediately.

Later the same day, the archdiocese suspended public celebration of Mass across all of its churches, the closure of all archdiocesan schools and related agencies.

Catholics have since been encouraged to celebrate Mass by following online services.

For more information about the archdiocese’s response at large to the coronavirus, visit archchicago.org/coronavirus.