SEATTLE – Priests must now wear masks during Mass, and distribution of Communion can return to its usual place during the liturgy under new coronavirus-era protocols announced by the Archdiocese of Seattle.
“We not only want to protect our priests from contracting the virus or inadvertently passing it on, but we also want to model our expectations for the people in the pews,” Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg said in a July 22 letter to priests and parish leaders. “Masks are a key way we can stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
The priest presiding at Mass may remove his mask while speaking, “but must replace it while sitting and while handing out Communion,” Bishop Mueggenborg said in his letter.
Other key changes include:
- Communion can be distributed during Mass (a July 24 update clarifies that a parish can continue to distribute Communion after Mass ends, "if the pastor believes it is safer to do so for that particular parish.") Hand-washing and mask-wearing is required by all those distributing the Eucharist. “Everyone wishing to receive must approach wearing a mask and may only remove the mask when they are next in the Communion line,” the bishop said in his letter. “Once they’ve consumed the Host, they must put their mask on and return to their pew.”
- Entrance and recessional processions will once again be allowed if the presider is wearing a mask and physical distancing of 6 feet is observed during the processions.
- Physical distancing must be maintained throughout Mass and after its conclusion. Each parish is required to create a dismissal protocol to ensure this distancing as parishioners leave their pews at the end of Mass.
“The threat of this pandemic continues to be serious,” Bishop Mueggenborg said, thanking priests and parish leaders for their diligence in maintaining established safety protocols.
Even with multiple positive cases reported in parishes, COVID-19 hasn’t spread throughout the parish communities, he said. Priests are continuing to anoint people known to have COVID-19, “and none of them have tested positive.”
With the number of coronavirus cases increasing across the state, however, it’s a real possibility that counties may revert to an earlier phase under the governor’s reopening plan, Bishop Mueggenborg said.
“We encourage each parish to be prepared and plan for this potential,” he said. “What would an outdoor Mass look like for your parish? Would it be possible in the winter time? Please think through these scenarios now, keeping in mind that livestreaming Mass should continue.”
“This experience is especially taxing on all of us,” he said, “and your efforts are greatly appreciated. I continue to pray for you and I ask that you continue to pray for everyone impacted by COVID-19.”
Updated July 24, 2020