Updates from From Archbishop Hebda-Revised May 23

May 23, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I wish to let you know of an important breakthrough in our state that will allow for greater worship opportunities for all Minnesotans as we together address the Covid-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Governor Walz will issue a new executive order that allows faith communities to accommodate up to 250 people for worship services, provided precautions are taken to protect public health. We welcome that development. We know that Governor Walz and his administration are trusting that when faith communities gather, they will do so consistent with public health guidance. Our commitment as Catholics to the common good makes it natural for us to pledge to be good citizens when we gather for worship.
As you know, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota believe that the previous limitation on faith-based gatherings to ten people unreasonably burdened the Church’s ability to fully meet the sacramental needs of our faithful. Because of our Catholic beliefs about the centrality of the Eucharist to our lives, we were prepared to move ahead and allow larger Masses even without support from public officials. As allowances were made for other, less essential activities, it seemed to many that the life of faith was receiving unequal treatment. The new executive order removes that unreasonable burden on the Church and allows us to bring the Eucharist, the food of everlasting life, to our community.

Before I go further to talk about what this means for our parishes and community, please allow me to express my gratitude to Governor Walz, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan, Commissioner Malcolm, Commissioner Harrington and the other members of the governor’s team. I am so thankful for the honest, open, and fast-paced dialogue we had over these past days and am pleased we could come to a consensus about a reasonable and safe path forward that allows a greater number of people to safely return to worship beginning May 27.

I hope that the discussions have given the governor and his team a better understanding of our duty as bishops to provide sacramentally for the good of our flock, as well as our unwavering Catholic commitment to working for the common good. Pope Francis frequently reminds us that there has to be a connection between what we do within the walls of the church and what we are then impelled to do outside the church in service to our brothers and sisters. With the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian life, it should not be surprising that the Church jealously guards its jurisdiction over the sacraments and entrusts to each bishop the responsibility to be moderator, promoter and guardian of the Church’s liturgical life.

It has been a privilege to collaborate with Rev. Lucas Woodford and his colleagues from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. They have been great partners on this matter and other issues. We are grateful for their friendship and how they help us strengthen our relationship with Lutherans in Minnesota. I also need to thank Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka for bringing faith leaders into conversation with the Walz administration over the past few months. The bishops of Minnesota are also grateful for the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which provided sound legal counsel in defense of the liberty of the Church to offer the sacraments, especially in our conversations with the Walz Administration. Thank you also to the law firm Sidley Austin for its work on this matter.

The bishops of Minnesota and I are thankful that our conversations with the administration and state health officials have helped us to strengthen our plan for moving forward. We humbly hope, conversely, that our discussions have assisted with the development of state guidance for worship services that is in the wider community’s best interest. Governor Walz and the bishops of Minnesota share a common goal – enabling people of faith to safely return to the full practice of their faith. And though it is our prerogative as bishops to oversee when and how the Mass and sacraments are made available, our faith tradition leads us to do so as much as possible in collaboration with legitimate public authority, just as we are doing today.

Although we had previously announced that Mass could begin May 26, the bishops have determined that it would be best to move that back one day to May 27 to give each parish the opportunity to reassess its plans in the light of the developments announced today. We have decided to make some small adjustments to our statewide protocols to reflect the helpful guidance that will be issued by the Minnesota Department of Health. In particular, at this time when the number of cases in Minnesota has not yet peaked, we are asking parishes to limit attendance at Mass to 25% of church capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower. Even with these revisions, we hope that parishes already planning to come together on Sunday, May 31, for the celebration of Pentecost and the conclusion of the Easter season, should still be able to do that.

I need to make something clear about the return to Mass. The bishops of Minnesota have repeatedly told our pastors and parishes that they should only return to public Mass when they are able and willing to follow the many protocols that have been put in place – including sanitization and a few changes to the liturgy, particularly regarding the reception of Holy Communion. If a parish is not confident they are ready, they should not open. Period. And if the faithful feel safer at home, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days continues to be dispensed. Reflecting the current CDC guidance, we also strongly encourage those who are over the age of 65 or who are especially vulnerable to not attend.

Let me express my gratitude to our priests, parish staffs, and parish leadership teams. Our priests have been on the front lines of the pandemic – ministering to the sick in their homes, hospitals, and care facilities. They have placed themselves at risk for the love of their brothers and sisters and found new ways for spreading the Gospel and building community. They are heroes in my book.

Let me express my thanks to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. While unable to receive the Eucharist – the very Body and Blood of Jesus – for the past two months, you have creatively and patiently found other ways to live your faith. You have made spiritual communions, stepped up to help those in need, and generously supported your parishes. And for those of you who may not be able or willing to return at this point for the Eucharist – especially those most vulnerable or over age 65 – I thank you for your patience and understanding and promise that your priests will make every effort to provide you with pastoral care. It would be wonderful to see you at a parking lot Mass in the security of your own cars. Otherwise, I hope that you will continue to join with us by participating in the many live streamed Masses that will continue to be offered by our parishes.

Please remember to pray for all those who have died at this challenging time, for those who grieve them, and for those who are sick and their families and caregivers. Also pray for the women and men in the health care field and first responders who daily risk their health to take care of our sisters and brothers in need. Finally, please join me in praying for an end to this pandemic.

And may God bless our country as we prepare to remember this Memorial Day weekend those who fought for it.

Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

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May 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, along with many people of faith, were disappointed in Governor Walz’s May 13 announcement that he would end the Stay-at-Home order to  allow more commerce but prohibit religious gatherings of more than ten people. We have attempted to work collaboratively with the Walz Administration up to this time, seeking the guidance of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Public Health to help us strengthen our specific safety protocols based on the statewide plan. Along with  some Lutheran colleagues, we submitted a plan to the Governor on May 8 that detailed the sanitation measures we would take and proposed a cap on occupancy limited to 33  percent of building capacity. Our proposed protocols are based on the work undertaken by a group of national medical experts and theologians, the Thomistic Institute, and they are consistent with the practices that have already been put in place in many dioceses throughout the United States. We continue our willingness to make any necessary adjustments to our safety protocols upon review.

The Life of Faith is Essential
Given our willingness to coordinate with the Governor, we are especially disappointed that his most recent order (20-56) does not address both the vital importance that faith plays in the lives of Americans, especially in this time of pandemic, and the fundamental religious freedom possessed by houses of worship that allows our country to thrive. The Governor’s remarks today further underscored a failure to appreciate the role of our Church and other faith groups in serving the community. The human cost to this pandemic has been extraordinary, not just in terms of lives lost to the virus but the rapidly growing problems of job loss, depression, crime and violence, and substance abuse. As Pope Francis has said, the church must be a field hospital, ministering to all, but especially the poor and vulnerable. He has cautioned that overly drastic measures that limit church life will have a disproportionate impact on “the little ones” and those who have no one to rely on.

The bishops of Minnesota are united in our conviction that we can safely resume public Masses in accordance with both our religious duties and with accepted public health and safety standards. We can worship in a way that reflects both the love of God and the love of our neighbors (cf. Mark 12:30-31). Therefore, we are giving our parishes permission for the resumption of the public celebration of Mass on Tuesday, May 26, which will give us time to be ready for the celebration of Pentecost on May 31. Parishes will be required to follow the strict protocols we have published for sanitation and social distancing and will have to limit attendance to one-third of the seating capacity of the church. No one will be obliged to attend, as the bishops of Minnesota will continue to dispense from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

Responsible Worship in Service of the Common Good
We share the Governor’s concern about the importance of taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have charged our parishes with the task of preparing for a limited return to public Mass, but we are not requiring them to begin public Mass on May 26. Each parish community needs to be comfortable that it can meet the standards set forth in extensive and stringent diocesan protocols. We already know that many will be unable to do that immediately because of the configuration of their churches or because of a shortage of staff or supplies. They need a plan for how they would limit admittance to one-third of the seating capacity of their church, and how they will seat those who arrive. We also recognize that some parishes may choose, for now, to adhere to the existing ten-person limit. We trust local leadership will determine when they are able to follow all the directives and open, and we stand ready to assist them when necessary.

We also know that parishes may have to adjust to changing circumstances, recognizing that we do not know how the pandemic will affect us in the weeks and months ahead. A parish that begins public Mass on Pentecost, for example, may have to impose further restrictions later in the year, in the event of an outbreak in the local community.
We have made it clear that the obligation of a Catholic to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended and we have uniformly encouraged those most at risk to stay home. Not surprisingly, dioceses in other states that have already reopened their churches for public Masses report that the number of those attending is significantly reduced. We ask our parishes to continue to provide ministry by live streaming even when public Masses resume. We find it reasonable, moreover, that parishes would continue to look for opportunities for outdoor celebrations.

Rights and Responsibilities
In moving forward with public worship in this limited manner, we wish to provide more explanation for our decision. First, the six dioceses of Minnesota voluntarily suspended parish activities, Catholic schools, and the public celebration of Mass, and did so before any executive orders were put in place. We have followed public health guidance and Governor Walz’s leadership so that we, as a state, could 1) flatten the curve, 2) allow time for the necessary health care infrastructure to be created to handle a surge of patients and avoid unnecessary deaths, and 3) allow a testing regime to be put in place to limit spread of COVID-19. We have done so because we care for our neighbors and it is important for us to be in solidarity with our vulnerable sisters and brothers. We have also done so out of respect for rightful authority—another biblical principle (cf. Romans 13).

Second, we have attempted to engage in dialogue with the Administration. We have twice sent the Governor letters asking for a dialogue, most recently last Saturday. Though public health and public safety officials have listened to our concerns and have created opportunities for input and conversation, we have not received a concrete timeline and roadmap for resuming public worship that includes reasonable guidance on congregational size.

Third, we believe we have been leading by example. Our people and institutions have enthusiastically cooperated with the public health guidance and have been part of the solution at every turn: providing relief to struggling families, finding creative ways to minister to a suffering people, serving on the front lines of the health care crisis, and leaping forward in technology to meet the demand for spiritual comfort created by this pandemic.

Our decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was painful. We made that decision not because we were compelled to do so, but because we judged that the circumstances required it. We believe that those circumstances have changed, as confirmed by the Governor’s decision to end the Stay-at-Home order and allow more commerce. It is now permissible for an unspecified number of people to go to shopping malls and enter stores, so long as no more than 50 percent of the occupancy capacity is reached. Big-box stores have hundreds of people inside at any one time, and the number of goods that are being handled and distributed in one store by many people—stock staff, customers, cashiers—is astounding. Workers are present for many hours per day, often in close proximity. There is no state mandate that customers wear masks in those malls or stores, wash their hands consistently, or follow any specific cleaning protocol. In these circumstances, and given the well-researched protocols that we have proposed (and that are being followed successfully elsewhere in our nation) how can reason require us any longer to keep our faithful from the Eucharist?

We are blessed to live in a nation that guarantees the free exercise of religion. This right can only be abridged for a compelling governmental interest, and only in a way that is narrowly tailored to be the least restrictive means of achieving the desired end. That is why a large majority of states now allow in-person religious services, including many states that had previously suspended in-person religious services. We think that the executive order issued last Wednesday fails this test. An order that sweeps so broadly that it prohibits, for example, a gathering of 11 people in a Cathedral with a seating capacity of several thousand defies reason. Therefore, we have chosen to move forward in the absence of any specific timeline laid out by Governor Walz and his Administration. We cannot allow an indefinite suspension of the public celebration of the Mass.

In conclusion, as local leadership makes these important decisions about when to safely re-open, we ask them to be in communication with diocesan leadership about their plans. The bishops of Minnesota are grateful that we have such excellent leadership in our parishes and we know that as we work together, we can provide for the essential sacramental life of our faithful, fulfill our duty to worship God, and do so in a way that also protects the common good of our state (cf. Matthew 6:25-34).

We remain yours in Christ Jesus the Lord,

Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Most Rev. Michael J. Hoeppner, Bishop of the Diocese of Crookston
Most Rev. Donald J. Kettler, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud
Most Rev. John M. LeVoir Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm
Most Rev. John M. Quinn, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester
Most Rev. Andrew H. Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Very Rev. James Bissonette, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Duluth

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May 15, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I communicated with you that the bishops of Minnesota had decided to ask our parishes to plan and prepare for the opening of public Masses May 18, based on the indicated expiration date of Governor Walz’s Stay-at-Home order. At the same time, the bishops proactively engaged public officials about the importance of some limited opening of our churches for Mass. A plan to resume public Masses in a limited manner on May 18—but only in places where parishes were willing and ready to follow a prescribed set of sanitization protocols—was submitted May 8 to the governor for feedback. Four Lutheran denominations joined our letter to Governor Walz. A number of other denominations and independent churches submitted plans May 8, as well.

To our disappointment, the governor and his administration have not yet engaged in dialogue with us on our proposal. While easing the Stay-at-Home order May 13, the governor’s new Stay Safe Minnesota executive order explicitly prohibited faith-based gatherings with more than ten unrelated people. We are hopeful, however, because Governor Walz has called meetings of faith leaders for next Monday and Tuesday, to solicit feedback on a new set of public worship guidelines that his administration will be producing. The date of re-opening for religious gatherings of more than ten people is still uncertain.

We understand that these are difficult decisions for our civic leaders and that they have many factors to consider in the reopening of life in Minnesota. The bishops of Minnesota likewise have many factors to consider as we determine when to allow public worship with more than 10 people. As faithful citizens, our decisions will be guided by three principles: 1) love of neighbor and concern for the common good, including the health and well-being of our neighbors; 2) respect for public authorities and their directives and guidance; and 3) the rights of the faithful to the sacraments and the duty of worship we owe to God. The faithful can expect that we will weigh these considerations carefully as part of our common responsibility to the state, and that we will zealously protect our liberties to assemble and worship freely.

The bishops of Minnesota will together decide on a path forward and hope to communicate that to you by the middle of next week.
In the meantime, we will creatively work within the ten-person limit to offer as many people as possible the opportunity to come to Mass. If a parish is prepared to fully implement the stringent safety and sanitization protocols published May 9, it may begin public Mass on Monday, May 18, respecting the ten-person limit. We expect that some parishes will not be ready to begin public Masses because they are not yet comfortable with, or able to implement fully. the protocols. Parishes should only return to a limited public celebration of the Mass when they are ready.

We know that many of you share our frustration and disappointment about the executive order’s treatment of religious gatherings. We ask that you continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and for our civic leaders, and that you presume the good will of those charged with these important and difficult decisions. Let us ask the Lord to help us cultivate patience, serenity, and peace of soul during our continued Eucharistic fast – believing that God will bring many graces from our sacrifices.
Please continue to pray for our sisters and brothers who have died or have become ill from COVID-19, along with their loved ones, and for the doctors, nurses, health care professionals, first responders and clergy who are serving them so sacrificially.

Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

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May 1, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I remain grateful for your commitment even in these difficult days to give joyful witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices that you have been making so that we as the Catholic community can give concrete witness to our respect for human life, and tend to the physical and spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters.
With the extension of Governor Walz’s Stay-at-Home Order until May 18, the public celebration of Mass in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will continue to be suspended until that date.

The Bishops of Minnesota gathered yesterday after the governor’s news conference to carefully consider our own phased approach back into having public Masses. We recognize that when we return to public Masses, we will have to do so with carefully defined protocols in order to keep people safe and to prevent the spread of the virus. We know that if we work together we can do this safely.

We need to begin now to work with our priests and parish leaders so that we could be ready to begin some limited public Masses on May 18. We are developing a gradual, multi-phase approach to the return to public worship. We are in phase one right now. Phase two will allow us to begin some public Masses, and phase three would allow us to have larger gatherings. These phases will allow for the ability to re-evaluate the process as necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of the community going forward. Our plan presumes that throughout the state the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will continue until such a
time that it is safe for all to return.

All phases of this plan require following strict guidelines for social distancing and sanitization.
Those over age 65 will be strongly encouraged not to attend, and anyone showing any symptoms of sickness, or anyone who has a household member who is sick or showing
symptoms of sickness should not come to church.

  •  The church space will be thoroughly sanitized before and after each service, including all entryways and doors. Holy water fonts will be empty and hymnals removed.
  • Signs will be posted concerning social distancing and sanitation requirements and reminders to follow these requirements will be offered.
  • Hand sanitizers will be available at all entryways.
  • All local safety orders specifically relating to proper face coverings will be followed.
  • People will be instructed not engage in any physical touch, such as by greeting each other.
  • Signs and other instructions will encourage normal safe practices necessary to avoid the spread (e.g. cough or sneeze into a shirtsleeve, handkerchief, or tissue; avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • Ventilation will be increased as much as possible by opening windows and doors, as weather permits.

While we are in phase one, our churches can be open daily for prayer, and priests can provide for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as they are able. Confessions can happen in spaces that are well-ventilated with adequate social distancing, yet still assuring the privacy of the sacrament. Many parishes have held confessions outdoors, which can work well. It is also permissible to celebrate weddings or funerals with 10 people or fewer present. Outdoor Masses without the distribution of Holy Communion, including benediction where people remain in their cars, minimizing the danger of spreading infection, are also allowed.

We anticipate beginning phase two on May 18. We will be working with public officials in a collaborative way to meet that goal. During phase two, public Masses in churches will be allowed in smaller groups limited to no more than 1/3 of the seating capacity of the Church (approximately every 3 rd pew). Parishes are always required to observe the prevailing directives for social distancing between those not of the same household.

Parishes will need to develop ways to ensure that this capacity limit is strictly followed, such as by implementing online signups and having ushers in place to ensure crowds are limited and controlled. Since the Sunday obligation has been dispensed, Catholics will be encouraged to attend other Masses during the week instead of on Sunday, in order to spread out the numbers. More Masses than usual will need to be offered in some cases to accommodate everyone who desires to attend Mass during this phase.
We intend to provide detailed protocols to be followed for the celebration of Mass and the distribution of Holy Communion well in advance of the date when public Masses will resume, so that parishes can make preparations for the careful way we will have to move forward. Social gatherings and other small group meetings will not be allowed during phase two, since they do not have the same controlled movement as Mass. Some other sacramental celebrations may be allowed, but they may never exceed 1/3 of the seating capacity of the church. If a liturgical celebration or event cannot maintain the capacity and other social distancing requirements, it may not take place during this phase.

At this point it is unknown when we would be able to enter phase three, which would provide more opportunity for us to have larger celebrations. We will continue to evaluate and follow the guidance of civil authorities and public health experts.

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have died from COVID-19, for those who mourn them, for those who are sick from this disease and for the people who are caring for them, often at great risk to themselves and their families. Know of my prayers for them and for you and your loved ones.

As we enter into this month of May, I offer my prayers for each of you through our Blessed Mother, Consoler of the Afflicted, and remain,

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

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April 17, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Easter Blessings in our Risen Lord!

Thank you for supporting our Catholic parishes and schools and caring for those in need during these difficult times. I have been praying often and intensely for you, especially during Holy Week. I hope you were able to enter into the spirit of those days, whether by participating in the Archdiocesan virtual retreat or the online events in your parish or through your personal prayer at home.

For the past several weeks, the COVID-19 situation has required that we not celebrate public Masses in our churches or hold large gatherings in our parishes. As reflected in the recent extension of the stay-at-home order in our State, the crisis requires that the temporary measures that we adopted are still needed to protect the public good. For that reason, Archdiocesan directives currently in force (including the dispensation of the Sunday Mass obligation) will remain at least until May 4.
Looking further ahead, May and June Confirmations at the Cathedral and Basilica have been cancelled; pastors of the effected parishes have been given the authority to either celebrate Confirmation in their own churches or schedule a later date at the Cathedral or Basilica. We will surely be spiritually enriched as our younger brothers and sisters in such great number choose to complete their initiation in our Church.

I am grateful that so many have felt free to express their emotions with me during the pandemic: support, sadness, confusion, anger. Some think our restrictions have gone too far, others not far enough. There are many questions: Why aren’t churches “essential services”? Why can people go to a liquor store, but Holy Communion is unavailable? How we can live our faith under these circumstances? These questions reflect that we are suffering. Please know that I sympathize with your hurt and am inspired by your love for the Sacraments, your parish, and the Church.

Amidst this pain, I remain convinced that the restrictions that have been placed on public Masses and the administration of some Sacraments are consistent with our faith. The Gospel calls us to respect and defend the lives of our families, neighbors, and especially the most vulnerable. This sometimes requires sacrificing our own desires for their good. “There is no greater love, than to lay down your lives for your friends,” Jesus said the night before He died. How could we as His disciples receive the Sacraments without thought or care for the safety of others? The Eucharist is re-presentation of Jesus’ own sacrifice, and He commands us to follow His example by making sacrifices in how we live out our faith and enter into the Church’s sacramental life. “As I have done, you also must do.”

By God’s grace, such sacrifices seem to be benefitting our community. Minnesota’s hospitals and health-care providers have so far been able to keep up with the number of
people needing life-saving medical care. Even so, public health officials say the precautions being taken must continue for the immediate future. Our Archdiocese stands in solidarity
with our brothers and sisters all over our country and around the world as we together strive to overcome this public health crisis. We are hoping and praying that the actions we have taken here will mitigate the pandemic and help us return to familiar public interactions, even if it may be some time before we return to “normal” life in society.

Meanwhile, please find comfort in the fact that priests continue to celebrate Mass on behalf of the Church and for your intentions every day. I am delighted to hear that via
technology, many of you, though not physically present, have been uniting yourselves with the Eucharistic sacrifice being offered and making a spiritual communion. I am hopeful that we will continue to find new and creative ways of living our faith while doing our part to stem the pandemic, always mindful of the best advice of public health experts.
As this Easter Octave draws to a close, let us together ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Please be assured of my prayers for you and your families.

Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

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March 25, 2020

STATEMENT REGARDING GOV. WALZ’S STAY-AT-HOME ORDER
From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda

Governor Tim Walz this afternoon ordered Minnesotans to stay home for two weeks – beginning Friday night – to try and further contain the spread of COVID-19 and buy time for our health care system to prepare. We as a Catholic community in this difficult time must do our part to come together to minimize the virus’ impact on those who have the virus and on our courageous health care personnel and the facilities where they serve the growing number of our sisters and brothers who need their help.
While the Archdiocesan staff and I continue to review the governor’s executive order, it is clear so far that for at least the next two weeks:

  • There will continue to be no public Masses or large gatherings of any kind.
  • Parishes are encouraged to continue to livestream or otherwise broadcast the liturgy (necessary support team is permissible in a sanctuary).
  • Priests are asked not to promote gatherings of the faithful that conflict with the Governor’s order.
  • Although gatherings are not to take place, Church buildings may be left open when possible to accommodate essential pastoral care, in that event precautions must be taken for social distancing and maintaining a safe environment.
  • Priests are encouraged to administer the sacraments in cases of serious need and on an individual basis.
  • The Archdiocesan Catholic Center will be closed but staff are available by phone and email.
  • It is unclear what is expected for funerals. An update will be provided on that question and others when further information is available from the State of Minnesota. In the interim, contact Father Mike Tix at tixm@archspm.org.

It is critical for the common good that we do everything we possibly can to minimize the risk to others and to ourselves, which means simply staying home as much as possible.

I know this is difficult for all of us, but it seems critical in order to buy time for the health care needs of our state to be met. Embracing these restrictions is very difficult Lenten penance for us. We will try as we are able to provide spiritual guidance through our continued online presence. We also ask parishioners to be especially attentive to their neighbors—it is amazing how much a phone call might mean in these days.
We are an archdiocese that is blessed with so many parishes, schools, religious orders, and lay apostolates. Even though we will be physically isolated the next two week, through the Holy Spirit we are still united together as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. During this intense Lenten desert experience, we have the opportunity to live our faith in new and creative ways. I pray that each of us might be able to turn to the Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady, Comfort of the Afflicted and Help of the Sick, to find ways to enter spiritually into an ever-deeper communion with each other and our entire local Church.

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March 18, 2020 6:00pm

Letter to the Faithful from Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

State Officials have communicated to religious leaders that the next two weeks are critical for the containment of the COVID-19/coronavirus and that all congregational gatherings should be avoided. While I am sure that the advice is startling for those of any creed, it particularly hits hard for Catholics, given our beliefs about the Mass and the Eucharist.

In light of that advice, after consulting with the Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors, and having learned that an active parish priest in another U.S. diocese has tested positive for the virus – unknowingly putting his parish at risk prior to the manifestation of any symptoms – I have made the difficult decision to suspend all regularly scheduled public celebrations of Mass in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul Minneapolis, effective immediately. Given both the moral impossibility of attending Mass, as well as the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass that was extended to the faithful of the Archdiocese last week, please rest assured that the missing of Mass in these conditions should not weigh on your conscience.

Anticipating that the need might arise for a funeral or wedding Mass in this period, a limited exception has been granted for those liturgies, provided that any liturgical celebration would comply with the directives that will be issued in a memorandum to clergy of the Archdiocese.

It pains my heart to have to make this decision since I know how many of you deeply love the Mass as I do. This decision will be re-evaluated in two weeks’ time in light of any local developments and the latest advice of civil authorities and experts.

The priests of the Archdiocese will gratefully continue to offer Masses daily for the good of the faithful and for an end to this health crisis. While unable to attend in person, the faithful are encouraged to be spiritually united with the priest celebrants as they pray for the strengthening of this local Church. I am grateful that many parishes have already found ways to broadcast the Mass and other spiritual devotions online, over the radio, or on TV, allowing the faithful to be remotely present at Mass in these challenging times and to make a spiritual communion. Options for Mass and prayer resources may be found at archspm.org/covid19.

Moreover, in their inspiring desire to serve, the priests of the Archdiocese are committed during the next two weeks to continue exploring with the lay faithful possibilities for limited public celebrations of the Mass at the parish or at the Archdiocesan level that would respect the most up-to-date recommendations from the Department of Health and allow us to continue to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus in our community. Knowing that so many Catholics are deeply Eucharistic in their spirituality, our priests and deacons are also committed to expanding possibilities for adoration and private prayer, moving adoration, where necessary, to larger church spaces to facilitate appropriate social distancing.

I am grateful that confessions will continue to be heard at parishes, with appropriate precautions and adaptions taken in accordance with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. Priests will also continue to respond to sacramental emergencies and provide anointing and Viaticum to the extent this is possible. Please do not hesitate to contact your local parish to make them aware of any sacramental needs for the sick or the dying.

As we today mark a special day of fasting, abstinence and prayer invoking God’s Providential care for our Archdiocese, our country and the world, I invite you to consider the upcoming “fast” from the Eucharist as a way to draw ever closer to our Lord, especially as we experience a more intense longing for Jesus, present in the Eucharist. During this time of Eucharistic fasting, I would encourage each of us to offer intercessory prayer each day for the health and safety of our community, especially healthcare workers, and to join in solidarity with the many Catholics throughout the world who regularly are unable to receive communion, due to persecution or to an absence of priests.

Please continue to pray for those who have died from COVID-19/coronavirus, those who mourn them, those who are sick and the many who care for them. I ask you to keep in your prayers, as well, Governor Tim Walz and Commissioner Jan Malcom from the Minnesota Department of Health, and all public servants working to keep our communities safe.

May Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted, keep us close to each other and to the loving heart of her son.

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March 13, 2020

Dispensation from Attending Mass

Due to the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19/coronavirus cases in the Archdiocese and with particular concern for those most vulnerable to the virus, as well as those treating and caring for the sick, Archbishop Hebda has dispensed the faithful of this Archdiocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Mass will, however, continue to be celebrated in our parishes as regularly scheduled.

Those who are not attending are asked to find a Mass on TV, the radio or online and make a Spiritual Communion. Where that is not an option, it would be appropriate to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary.

See further information in the statement from Archbishop Hebda.

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