The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced it will start Phase I of its reopening plan May 15 at 5 p.m., allowing churches to be open for private prayer and adoration. Parishes may offer the sacraments of reconciliation and baptism, and funeral and wedding Masses may be held with a limit of 10 attendees.
The start of Phase II was also announced for the weekend of May 30-31, when public Masses can begin at the pastor’s discretion and where it is permissible to do so based on conditions in the local jurisdiction. Some suburban and rural areas of the state are ready to move forward with plans to reopen, while Baltimore City has extended its stay-at-home orders due to a continued high number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced May 13 loosening of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic in Maryland, but still emphasized “Safer at Home.”
In an interview May 13 before the governor’s announcement, Archbishop William E. Lori said, “I think the most important thing is that we truly do want to make the sacraments and the Mass as accessible as possible. We’ve missed greatly being together.
“All of us have missed it. Priests have missed it. I’ve missed it. And certainly, God’s people have missed it,” the archbishop said, adding that reopening churches and restarting public Masses must be done safely and looking toward the common good.
He also acknowledged that many people in the worshipping community – including some priests who are older or have underlying conditions – are vulnerable.
“We want to do this in a way that is thoughtful and responsible, but as responsive as possible to the great pastoral desire for the Mass and sacraments,” he said.
In the archdiocese, Masses beginning the weekend of the feast of Pentecost May 31 will be allowed with one-third of the church’s capacity if held indoors. Outdoor Masses have no limit on numbers in attendance but must adhere to physical distancing requirements. No in-car Masses will be permitted and parishioners must bring chairs or stand for outdoor Masses.
Worship guidelines for Phase I issued by the archdiocese May 12 will remain in effect. Pastors will need to develop a process for distribution of Communion based on those guidelines, which include protocols for hand sanitizing by the priest or other Communion ministers, who will wear a facial covering. The faithful will be required to wear a facial covering when coming forward to receive the Eucharist, lowering it just prior to the reception of the Eucharist, according to the guidelines.
Communicants will be strongly recommended to receive Communion in the hand. The Precious Blood will not be distributed.
Email Christopher Gunty at firstname.lastname@example.org