Archdiocese prepares to reopen churches

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Archbishop of Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced a three-phase gradual reopening process for churches throughout the Archdiocese to ensure the health and well being of clergy and churchgoers.

Beginning on Sunday, May 17, Phase One will reopen churches in the Archdiocese for private prayer only, following all public health guidelines and once pastors determine they can safely do so.

As part of Phase One, the Sacrament of Reconciliation also may be celebrated if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn.

All pastors, parochial administrators, chaplains and other pastoral leaders are expected to follow these Phase One directives without exception:

  • The faithful are not obligated to attend Mass on Sunday nor do they have to receive Holy Communion during the season of Easter, also know as “Easter duty.”
  • Churches may be opened solely for personal prayer during limited and designated hours.  Individuals and families may enter the church for quiet prayer only. During opening hours, a parish staff member must be physically present in the church to ensure social distancing and sanitizing. No gatherings are permitted. And all individuals and family’s must maintain a social distance of six feet away from others.
  • In accordance with national, state, and local health directives, those who show symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been exposed to an infected person are not permitted to enter the church for 14 days.
  • Holy water fonts must remain empty until further notice.
  • Hand sanitizer should be made available throughout the church.
  • Public celebrations of liturgies, devotions, or other group prayer are not permitted at this time. A guide for livestreamed Mass can be found at: https://www.rcan.org/parish-mass-livestreams-and-more
  • Masks must be worn by all individuals while in the church, and persons are asked to bring their own hand sanitizer or wipes.
  • The pastor will ensure that there is prominent notification within the church regarding the requirement of masks and social distancing.
  • Pews, door handles and knobs, restrooms, and high traffic areas of the church will be wiped down and sanitized at regular intervals, along with the removal of trash and other items from the pews.
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation can be offered at specified and limited times but confessionals are not to be used, social distancing must be maintained, and masks must be worn by the confessor and penitent.

Cardinal Tobin and the Archdiocesan Task Force are currently determining the timing for the implementation of the next two phases. Phase Two will incorporate the celebration of weekday Masses and Phase Three will permit Sunday Masses.

More information about the Archdiocese of Newark’s three-phase gradual reopening process, along with specific guidance, is available at www.rcan.org.

For the latest Archdiocesan news or announcements, visit  http://www.rcan.org/covid19.