March 20, 2020

Dear Brother Priests, Deacons, and all members of the faithful who are  part  of our  Diocesan Family ,

Peace be with you! This is my second letter to you during this time of national and worldwide emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. First, allow me to extend to  you  the powerful  words that Jesus spoke to his disciples when they were in the  midst  of  a storm  on the  water,  being tossed about in a boat by the wind and the waves: “Take  courage,  it is I;  do  not  be afraid” (Matt 14: 27). We are, indeed, in turbulent times, being tossed about by the waves  of  this pandemic. We are hindered, but not prevented, in our ability to be nourished and to respond spiritually. Nevertheless, we should not be afraid. The Lord is with us.

Second, allow me to provide you with the following updates:
Today, the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See has granted the following special indulgences to the faithful. Remember that an indulgence is yet another way that God extends his mercy to us. It is a sign that God’ s mercy is stronger than our sin. More specifically, an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption , dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471).

The following may obtain a Plenary Indulgence , that is, full remission of the  temporal punishment due to sin:

To the faithful suffering from the Coronavirus, subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin , they unite themselves spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, to the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession , Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s in tentions), as soon as possible.”

Health care workers, family members, and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer. “No man has greater love than this: to give his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).”

“Those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament , or Eucharistic Adoration, or the reading of Sacred Scripture for at least half an hour , or the  recitation  of the Holy  Rosary , or the pious exercise  of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation  of the Chaplet  of Divine  Mercy,  to implore from Almighty God the end  of the epidemic,  relief for those who are afflicted  and the eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”

“The Church prays for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the Viaticum , entrusting each and every one of them to Divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, n.12). ”

– Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, On the granting of special Indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic situation, 20 March 2020

Today, the Holy Father has also reminded Bishops that individual confession is the ordinary way of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation . Nevertheless, “Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolu tion, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from  the  love  of  God,  beloved  above  all things , expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse , as  soon  as  possible ,  to  sacramental  confession,   obtains   forgiveness   of   sins,   even   mortal   ones (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 145 2).”

However , in certain situations the sudden need may arise to  impart  sacramental  absolution  in  a general manner to several faithful gathered together, for example, at the entrance of  a  hospital  or nursing home where those infected are in danger of death. The diocese is monitoring  this situation closely and will act according ly, designating certain priests to attend to these and other  similar situations. However, the conditions are not present for general  absolution  of the faithful  outside  of these certain situations who unfortunately cannot go to  confession  at  this  time.  If  the  situation changes , you will be informed as soon as possible.  Please  keep in  mind  that necessary  precautions will need to be put into place so that priests and penitents can gather safely. Likew is e, necessary instruction will accompany this permission, in particular, that the faithful must be properly disposed (have contrition for their sins) and intend to confess all serious sins  individually  after the pandemic  ends and the situation returns to normal (c. 962).

– Note from the Apostolic Penitentiary, On the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic situation, 20 March 2020

Effectively immediately, all Catholics entrusted to my care as well as those who are within the territory of the Diocese of Syracuse are hereby dispensed from the obligation of abstaining from meat on Good Friday as well as on the remaining Fridays during Lent. The purpose of this dispensation is to assist those for whom the practice  of abstinence  is difficult  at this time, for example, because of the current shopping  situation.  However,  those  who  can abstain from meat are encouraged to do so. Additionally, the law of fasting on Good Friday remains for Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59. It is important that the remaining  days of  Lent continue to be days of penance and prayer.

At the present moment, all public gatherings for Mass, prayer, Faith Formation and  certain parish activities remain cancelled and the faithful remain dispensed from the obligation to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays. In light of what is  known  about Covid-19 and its duration, the following provisions for Holy Week and Easter must now also be made:

 The Light is On campaign is cancelled. General Absolution is not permitted. All public liturgical celebrations and gatherings,  specifically,  Palm  Sunday,  The  Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and  Easter  Sunday  are cancelled.  They are to be celebrated by priests in private. Further guidance will  be provided  in the days ahead  by the Office of Liturgy.

Regarding the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the elect are dispensed from two of the scrutinies and the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation may take place outside of the Easter Vigil, namely, on any Sunday up to and including the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (R.CI.A. no. 34, 2). Further guidance will be provided in the days ahead by the Office of Liturgy and the R.C.I.A.

Celebrations of First Holy Communion and Confirmation are postponed. Further guidance concerning when and how the celebration  of these  sacraments  can take  place as well  as what is required to prepare those receiving them will  be provided  in the days ahead  by the Offices  of Catechesis and Liturgy.

Churches and parish facilities (food pantries, offices, etc.) may remain open with limited personnel following the guidelines of the local government and the  Center  for  Disease  Control.

Finally, I am doing everything possible to continue to  attend  to  your  spiritual  needs.  Please  stay tuned for media-based opportunities for prayer, reflection, etc. Please also read the diocesan  updates  that will be available each day at 4:00 PM and continue to visit our website and consult the  resources that are posted there, particularly the Frequently Asked  Questions.  Be  assured  of  my  continued prayers and support as we  weather  this storm  together,  with our eyes fixed  on the Lord, waiting for  his mercy. May the intercession  of our Blessed  Mother,  Saint Joseph, and  all  the saints,  especially, our own Saint Marianne Cope, bring healing, comfort, strength, and a swift end to this pandemic.

In the Name of Jesus,
Douglas J. Lucia, Bishop Diocese of Syracuse.