May 20, 2020 — (Wilmington, Delaware) — The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has announced that its 56 parishes in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland may once again be open to worshipers in the near future now that the governors of both states have issued safety guidelines for communities of worship.
Provided a parish is equipped to follow guidelines issued by the Diocese of Wilmington and government officials, the following dates have been announced:
- Maryland parishes of the Diocese of Wilmington may open for private, individual prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) beginning Friday May 22, 2020. Delaware parishes may do so beginning Monday, May 25, 2020.
- Maryland parishes of the Diocese of Wilmington may resume Daily Masses beginning Monday, May 25, 2020. Delaware parishes may do so beginning on Monday, June 1, 2020.
- Maryland parishes of the Diocese of Wilmington may resume Sunday Masses beginning on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Vigil Mass on May 30 is also included). Delaware parishes may begin Sunday Masses beginning on Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020. (Vigil Mass on June 6 is also included).
In both states, attendance at any liturgy or event in the church is limited to 1/3 of the fire marshal approved maximum occupancy and shall not exceed state-mandated requirements. Pastors may determine a lower capacity if they feel it necessary for their community’s safety. Additionally, attendees are required to wear proper face coverings, maintain a minimum of 6 feet separation from those who are not a part of their household, and follow their pastor’s direction for the reception of Holy Communion.
“The size, location, and make up of our parishes vary widely and one-size-fits-all approach is not possible and not every situation or issue can be anticipated,” the diocese pointed out in a document released today. “Pastors may choose to implement additional and more restrictive rules for public worship than those permitted as they take into consideration vulnerable members in their respective parishes and other issues specific to their communities.”
The Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington said, “We are happy that we are able to open our churches to the faithful who hunger to once again receive the Sacraments. However, the safest thing for people to do is to stay home and participate in the Mass via live-streaming. This is especially true for those who are older, have health issues, or are caregivers to vulnerable individuals.” Another option would be for parishioners to attend a less-crowded daily Mass, the Bishop suggested.
In March, the bishop dispensed the Sunday Mass Obligation for Catholics in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. That dispensation will remain for the foreseeable future. Parishes are encouraged to continue to live-stream Masses.
On March 15, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and at the advice of government officials, and medical professionals, Bishop Malooly canceled all public Masses, confessions, prayer services, marriages, baptisms, funerals, etc. in the Diocese.
The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was established in 1868 and comprises 56 parishes, 18 missions and 36 schools serving the State of Delaware and the nine counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. More information on the diocesan effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is available at www.cdow.org/coronavirus.
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Media Contact: Bob Krebs