Polish Bishops' Conference

Polish Episcopate Recommends Precautions in Churches Regarding Coronavirus

Elderly and Ill Dispensed from Mass Attendance

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“According to the Code of Canon Law, until March 29, we recommend that diocesan bishops grant dispensation from participating in Sunday Mass to the elderly, the faithful who have symptoms of infection (e.g. coughing, rhinitis, increased body temperature), children and school youth and adults who take direct care of them, as well as those who feel afraid of being infected,” announced the Order issued after the March 12 meeting of the Permanent Council of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

The Council underlines that precautionary measures have been taken in the interests of the life and health of the population. The bishops point out that taking advantage of the dispensation means that it is not a sin to miss Sunday Mass at the indicated time. At the same time, they ask that those who take advantage of the dispensation “continue in personal and family prayer”. “We also encourage spiritual connection with the Church community through radio, television or Internet transmission,” reads the Order.

The Permanent Council of the Episcopate also introduces rules to be in force until 29 March during the liturgy in churches. Priests and ministers with signs of infection cannot distribute Holy Communion. Those who administer this sacrament should wash their hands thoroughly and follow the rules of hygiene. “We remind that the Church’s liturgical regulations also provide for receiving Holy Communion on hand. The sign of peace should be exchanged by nodding of the head, without shaking hands. The veneration of the Cross should be performed without direct contact, by kneeling or deep inclination. In addition, the veneration of relics must be avoided by kissing or touching. Protective films should be put on the confessional grill. During this time, we should refrain from filling the church’s fonts with holy water” – the bishops emphasize.

It has also been decided that the liturgies with the sacrament of Confirmation will be postponed to later dates, which will be communicated by the diocesan curia. “During this time, the pilgrimages of high school graduates to Jasna Góra and school retreats organized by parishes are also suspended. At the same time, we ask the Catholic social media and the clergy to offer retreats on the Internet, which can be followed at home in this way. The matters of retreats for groups of adults and the organization of other meetings are left to the prudent discernment of parish priests” – the Order states. “The Church has served the sick and needy for two thousand years, even in times of epidemics, without abandoning the sacraments and preaching” – indicated the bishops. They also asked for solidarity with the elderly and those in need, for example, by assistance in shopping.

They also wrote that “just as hospitals treat illnesses of the body, so churches treat illnesses of the spirit, so it is unthinkable that we do not pray in our churches”. “Therefore, we encourage all the faithful to visit the churches outside the liturgy for fervent personal prayer. We recommend to priests that churches should remain open during the day, that priests take care of additional occasions for confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, that priests and extraordinary ministers visit sick and elderly parishioners with sacramental ministry” – recommends the Permanent Council of the Episcopate.

“We ask all believers to pray for protection from disease, as well as for peace of heart and the grace of deep conversion for each of us. Let us commend all those who died as a result of coronavirus to the good Lord. Let us pray for health for the sick, for those who care for them, for doctors and medical staff and for all sanitary services. Let us pray for the epidemic to end. According to the Tradition of the Church, we encourage to sing supplications in our churches +Holy God, Holy Mighty…+,» we read in the Order.

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Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

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