Office of the Bishop
March 26, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we continue to respond to the spread and the danger of the coronavirus, I write once more to offer a word of encouragement. Many exceptional steps have been taken both in the Church and in the wider society, in an effort to protect individuals from exposure to the virus or from becoming a carrier that might expose others.
As Catholics, we recognize a particular obligation to see Christ in every moment of our lives, both the good and the challenging. Every sacrifice that we make is another step on our way to choosing for Christ, and therefore for eternal life in heaven itself.
We are a people of hope and trust in the Lord. Jesus has told us that His true followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That means that we have received not only the gift of faith, but also the responsibility that comes with that gift. The current moment challenges us to live as those who truly believe that Jesus has not left us alone, but is with us even more closely when difficulties arise. Others, especially those who are fearful, ill, lonely or without faith, need to have our witness, especially now.
As the coronavirus problem is projected to intensify in the coming days, I write to convey to you some further dispositions to address the projected spike in cases and the longer timeframe that appears to be anticipated for protective measures. To that end:
1) Through Easter Sunday (up until and including Easter Sunday), all Masses are to continue to be celebrated privately without the presence of the faithful.
2) I also take this opportunity to extend the dispensation given to all the faithful from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass through Easter Sunday.
3) All adoration chapels are now to be closed in order to increase our response to protect the faithful from the spread of the coronavirus.
Given the continuing unavailability of the sacraments to the faithful except in grave circumstances, there is a widespread feeling of longing to be with Christ and with the Church. It is important that we continue to recognize the ability of Jesus to be close to us even in such an exceptional time.
I have asked Father Jonathan Bakkelund, Director of the Office of Divine Worship of the Diocese of Rockford, to prepare some thoughts on the Plenary Indulgences that the Vatican has made available at this time, as well as means for a spiritual communion when Eucharistic communion is not available, and likewise the richness of making a perfect act of contrition when sacramental reconciliation cannot be accessed. His very helpful comments are attached.
Please know of my prayers for all of you during this unprecedented time. I ask for your prayers as
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend David J. Malloy Bishop of Rockford