I want to address a few matters that have transpired over the course of the last week:
- As you know, on Tuesday, it was announced that the diocese and survivors of clergy sexual abuse reached agreement on a framework to resolve all abuse claims against the diocese and parishes. In the next couple of weeks, the diocese will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of this resolution. I am grateful to everyone who worked to reach this agreement. Please continue to pray for justice and healing for all abuse survivors. As I noted previously, some details, including what parishes will be asked to contribute to the compensation fund for survivors, are still being worked out. You will receive more information about this in the near future as well as updates about the process.
- Wednesday was the first day that churches in Minnesota could celebrate larger public Masses under Gov. Walz’s new executive order. In our diocese, you may only begin after I’ve approved a plan for each of your parishes. Plans should be submitted by emailing them to Colleen Haider in my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am thankful for the cooperation and thoroughness I’ve seen in the plans submitted so far.
A few other points regarding the resumption of Masses:
- Please resume celebrating larger public Masses only when you and your parish are ready and you have an approved plan. Keep the lines of communication open with your parishioners about your timeline and the reasons for it.
- It is extremely important to rigorously follow the health and safety requirements of our diocesan protocols/guidelines incorporated into your plans. People inside and outside of our parishes will be watching what we do, and we must be good role models for everyone in our communities. Please stick to your plan and make sure it is posted in an easily accessible location so it can be reviewed by all parish leadership, staff and volunteers – a requirement of the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidance as part of the executive order.
- Please pay special attention to the use of masks as noted in our diocesan guidelines/protocols. The celebrant and other ministers must wear face coverings during processions and the recessional as well as during the distribution of Holy Communion. I would strongly encourage that your parishioners wear masks while entering and exiting the church as well as during Mass, removing them only to receive Holy Communion. Masks are an important way to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
- Members of the liturgical assembly should come forward for Holy Communion
Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should not walk into the assembly to distribute Communion. This allows ministers to stand next to a hand sanitizing station, allowing them to sanitize their hands if they come into contact with a communicant. Holy Communion must be received in the hand only and should be distributed at the prescribed time during Mass.
- Please strongly encourage those who are most at risk of severe illness
Remind them and all Catholics in your community that they are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days until further notice.
- Finally, I want to address a serious event that happened this week in the Twin Cities. I was shocked and saddened by the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd and by the rioting that followed in the aftermath. Violence won’t bring about justice. I ask you and your parishioners to pray for Mr. Floyd’s family, for peace and reconciliation in the community, and for real and lasting justice to be accomplished. Issues surrounding race continue to plague our nation. This is the reason the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” in late 2018. Our diocesan staff is currently studying and discussing the letter. If you haven’t read it already, I encourage you to do so. You can access it at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/index.cfm.
I continue to pray for you and our diocese during these challenging times. The diocesan staff continues to work mostly remotely for the time being. Please contact any offices or member of the staff by phone or email as you normally would. They remain ready to assist you and your parishes in whatever ways they can.
I pray that you will have a blessed Pentecost. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit renew us and strengthen us in our mission.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud