With the Ontario government announcing a provincewide shutdown beginning on 26 December, we must, unfortunately, make the changes outlined below across the Diocese of London. These are the same measures already in place for our parishes in Windsor-Essex.
Charity means we must make these sacrifices to help ensure our neighbours are safe. We must care for others in our communities and our fellow parishioners, even if it means we cannot gather for a short time.
We thank all levels of government for their flexible approach to implementing these public health restrictions and their continued vigilance to keep us safe. I would also like to thank you, the faithful of our diocese. Your dedicated efforts during the pandemic have demonstrated that we are able to provide safe spaces in our churches.
I have not made these changes lightly. These new measures will further restrict participation in the sacraments and again call forth sacrifices from the faithful across the Diocese who have been drawing spiritual nourishment from the sacraments. The severity of the pandemic, however, means we must do our part, out of love, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
While the province is shutdown, the following directives, already in effect for Windsor-Essex, will take effect on 26 December for the whole Diocese and remain in place until the restrictions are lifted:
- Public Masses and services in our churches are suspended. The faithful are asked to continue to pray at home and watch Mass online. Priests should continue to celebrate Mass privately.
- Churches may open for private prayer, with a maximum occupancy of 10 people and with all other safety and cleaning protocols in place.
- Weddings and Baptisms may be celebrated without a Mass, but provincial occupancy restrictions, a maximum of 10 people, including the priest, must be observed.
- Funeral wakes or services may also be held in the church with the same restrictions, or in a funeral home, with the restrictions put in place there.
- Parish teams are encouraged to keep in contact with parishioners through telephone calls or other electronic means. Such calls could be a simple chat, praying a decade of the Rosary with the person or asking how we can be of help.
- Priests may hear Confessions, by appointment, or in church, provided gathering restrictions of a maximum of 10 people, including the priest, are observed.
- Parish offices are to close, and employees are asked to work from home. Employees may enter offices and churches to carry out essential duties only.
- All regular meetings and social activities in parishes are cancelled. Sacramental preparation can continue online. Celebrations of First Confession, First Communion, and Confirmation will be postponed.
- Events in parish halls and meeting areas should be cancelled unless they are deemed an essential service (e.g., childcare, Alcoholics Anonymous, social services).
- Priests may preside at outdoor burial services but must obey gathering restrictions of a maximum of 10 people including the priest.
- Mausoleums are closed to visitation. Interments are permitted with a maximum of 10 people including the priest. Cemetery grounds can remain open for individual and family visits.
The shutdown is scheduled to end on 23 January, but could be extended. Additional details can be found at this link.
The birth of our Saviour is a source of hope, a message of comfort and consolation which we are to announce to the world. I wish you a blessed Christmas and God’s peace and joy in the New Year.
This is a time for us to unite in prayer. May we soon be able to resume public worship in our churches without restrictions. May God comfort those who have lost loved ones and return to full health those who are ill. May God keep our frontline healthcare workers safe and give them strength to care for the sick.
Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London