Bishop issues COVID-19 protocol guide for reopening churches within diocese
Noting that the Diocese of Peoria has already reached Phase I in the plan to reopen churches, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, issued COVID-19 Protocol Instructions on May 20. Modeled on the plan developed by the Archdiocese of Chicago, the plan for the Diocese of Peoria has been adapted to correspond to central Illinois and the progression of the coronavirus here.
The five-page document includes guidelines for everything from the celebration of Mass when the time comes to norms for baptisms, weddings, funerals and the sacrament of reconciliation. There are also provisions for training volunteers, disinfecting churches, and maintaining safe social distancing.
A warning that must be posted at church entrances and on parish websites and social media also covers the risk assumed by those who enter public spaces, despite appropriate measures taken to safeguard parishioners and their guests. The warning reads:
“While our parish staffs will attempt to take appropriate precautions consistent with the advice of public health authorities, parishioners and guests should understand that they assume the risk of contracting COVID-19 anytime they enter a public space since such precautions do not eliminate the risk of infection.”
In issuing the protocols, Bishop Jenky thanked OSF HealthCare and the Infectious Disease Team for providing guidance and giving their endorsement to the plan.
MORE GUIDANCE COMING
“While we are presently only opening our churches for funerals, weddings, and baptisms, we are planning for the day when we will resume weekday and Lord’s Day Masses,” Bishop Jenky said in the letter.
He stated again his desire to “open our churches and provide you with the sacraments in a way that reflects our love for God and our responsibilities to one another.”
Opening churches for funerals, weddings, and baptisms with 10 persons present, as well as the sacrament of reconciliation is Phase I of the plan.
Private prayer and adoration, also limited to 10 persons, comes in Phase IA. Permission has not been given for this yet, but preparation continues.
The public celebration of Sunday and weekday Masses is not permitted until Phase II. In this phase, only the clergy may receive the Precious Blood and distribute Communion, and the gifts procession and sign of peace are to be omitted.
“Once public Mass is permitted, the Diocese of Peoria will give instructions regarding the number of persons who may be present in the church, after consultation with local civil authorities,” according to the protocol instructions.
The document says that even after public Masses resume, parishes may still wish to livestream Mass for those who cannot or should not come to church.
The faithful continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass.