Blog

Decree On Pastoral Activities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The following decree was issued by Bishop W. Shawn McKnight on March 31, 2020. It is effective April 1-30, 2020. Click here to read the April 17 extension decree.

In light of the guidance from the United States Federal Government, the State of Missouri, the directives of county health officials, the special Decree from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. N. 153/20 and “Update” of 25 March 2020), and for the benefit of the common good, I hereby mandate as the Diocesan Bishop the following directives on all pastoral activity in the Diocese of Jefferson City:

Public celebrations of the liturgy and devotions are expressly forbidden. Families and individuals who are asymptomatic may make visits to their parish church for private prayer as long as no more than ten people are present in the church at the same time and social distancing (at least six feet in between persons) is observed. Pastors and their equivalent are responsible for ensuring that no more than ten persons are present in the church whenever it is open to the public. Families and individuals are encouraged to pray at home especially the Liturgy of the Hours, the Scriptures, the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and to participate spiritually in sacred celebrations live-streamed from the Holy See, our Cathedral, and their local parish church.

2. Priests are highly encouraged to celebrate Mass every day, on behalf of and for their flock, but with no more than one assisting minister and another person if the Mass is being livestreamed (all of whom are to be asymptomatic).

3. Masses without a congregation that are livestreamed for the benefit of the faithful may have up to nine asymptomatic assisting ministers (musicians, lector, acolyte, deacon, etc.) for only the following solemn occasions: The Holy Week services of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil; the Sundays of the Easter Season; the solemn Masses on the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Parish Altar or Church and the Parish Patronal Feast Day. Social distancing must be observed for these Masses, with no offertory procession or the exchange of the sign of peace, and assisting ministers are encouraged not to present themselves for Holy Communion.

a. The Chrism Mass will be livestreamed from the Cathedral on Thursday, April 2, at 10:00 am. All the faithful, especially priests, are requested to participate spiritually by watching the live stream of this Mass which celebrates our unity as a priestly people. Priests of the diocese are highly encouraged to renew their priestly promises together at the same time. The distribution of the holy oils after the Chrism Mass will take place in concert with the deans and the deacons of the diocese. Holy oils from last year are to be used until the new oils have been distributed, which may not take place until later in the Easter Season.


b. On Palm Sunday, the commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within church buildings in the following manner: when live-streamed, the second form given in the Roman Missal (the solemn entrance) is to be adopted; when not live-streamed, the third form (the simple entrance) is to be used. Due to concerns for contamination, blessed palms from the solemn entrance are not to be made available to the faithful.


c. For the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in the parish church or a chapel, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.


d. On Good Friday, the addition of the following intention is to be added:

XI. For an end to the pandemic
Let us pray, dearly beloved, for a swift end
to the coronavirus pandemic that afflicts our world,
that our God and Father will heal the sick,
strengthen those who care for them,
and help us all to persevere in faith.
Prayer in silence. Then the Celebrant says:
Almighty and merciful God,
source of all life, health and healing,
look with compassion on our world, brought low by disease;
protect us in the midst of the grave challenges that assail us
and in your fatherly providence
grant recovery to the stricken,
strength to those who care for them,
and success to those working to eradicate this scourge.
Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

The adoration of the Cross by a kiss shall be limited solely to the celebrant. Other ministers may individually genuflect or bow to the Cross.

e. The Easter Vigil is to be celebrated only in the Cathedral and parish churches. When it is live-streamed and with a suitable number of assisting ministers (but no more than nine), a simplified lucenarium may take place with the blessing of the fire and the candle inside the church; otherwise, the Easter Vigil begins with a simple lighting of the Paschal Candle and the chanting of the Exsultet following. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is to be done. The Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion of the Elect shall take place on a Sunday (or its Vigil) of the Easter Season or beyond, whenever the public celebration of Mass resumes. The reception of Candidates into full communion with the Catholic Church shall take place at any time after the prohibition of public Masses has been lifted. Persons, whether Catechumens or not, who are in danger of death but are not at the point of death and so are able to hear and answer the questions involved, may be baptized with the shorter rite in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (cf. “Christian Initiation of a Person in Danger of Death”). If they are at the point of death, “Christian Initiation for the Dying” in the Pastoral Care of the Sick is to be observed (cf. no. 277). Candidates for full communion who are in danger of death may be received into full communion, confirmed and given First Communion immediately, even outside of Mass, with the celebration of the Rite of Penance beforehand.

f. On Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter), a special Holy Hour with the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Solemn Benediction may also be celebrated with up to nine assisting ministers if it is live-streamed.

Services that are not livestreamed on these days must adhere to the requirement of no more than one assisting minister.

4. Funeral rites may be celebrated with no more than ten people present (including the ministers and funeral home staff). Graveside services may take place immediately with no more than ten people present, and the celebration of a memorial Mass can take place once the prohibition of public Masses is lifted. Livestreaming funeral rites would benefit the faithful who are not able to attend in person.

5. Weddings should be rescheduled for a later time. However, wedding liturgies may take place with no more than ten persons present (including the ministers). Livestreaming the wedding liturgy is encouraged for the benefit of those who cannot attend in person.

6. The distribution of Holy Communion outside of Mass and the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick are not permitted except for the celebration of the Last Rites. The faithful are highly encouraged to seek the sacraments from their parish priest before going to the hospital, as there is no guarantee a priest will be available or admitted to some hospitals at certain times.

7. For the Last Rites, the use of a mask, medical gloves, fresh oil and a cotton ball or Q-tip, as previously communicated shall be observed. To prevent cross-contamination of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest or ministers should only bring the amount of Communion necessary for Viaticum.

8. The Sacrament of Penance should be offered daily by appointment or at designated times in the church or some other suitable place, so long as the following is observed:

  • a. A designated person monitors the number of people present in the space at any one time, ensuring no more than ten persons are present (including the confessor).
  • b. Social distancing is observed by hearing confessions in a large room or outdoors with chairs or kneelers placed at least six feet between the confessor and the penitent, and with no one else present in the room or space to preserve the seal of confession;
  • c. The use of a confessional is allowed but only if a complete barrier (such as a wall with a fixed grille) exists between the penitent and the confessor. Sanitizing wipes are to be provided on the penitent’s side to wipe down the kneeler before use.
  • d. The Sacrament of Penance is not to be celebrated via cell phone. In addition, in the present circumstances, cell phones should not be used even for the amplification of voices between a confessor and penitent who are in visual range of each other. Current threats against the seal of confession also raise questions about information on cell phones.

When the faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, 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 the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452). By Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary (20 March 2020), the gift of special Indulgences is granted to the faithful suffering from COVID-19 as well as to health care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.

9. All confirmation Masses will be rescheduled.

10. Adoration chapels with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament must be closed until the prohibition of public Masses is lifted. In accordance with no. 1, Eucharistic processions as well as Benediction are not permitted (except with regard to no. 3f.)

11. All in-person meetings greater than ten persons or which cannot guarantee proper social distancing of at least six feet are strictly prohibited whether indoors or outdoors. This prohibition includes and is not limited to the following activities: education, catechesis, youth programming, devotional activities, socializing, and other similar pastoral activities. Outdoor or indoor playground equipment shall not be open for use.

12. Charitable activities of the Church are to follow the diocesan safe environment policies (Virtus) and the guidance of the local county health director.

Sincerely yours in Christ,



Most Rev. W. Shawn McKnight
Bishop of Jefferson City