Bishop Richard F. Stika has issued a list of mandatory procedures that will be implemented by parishes for the safe resumption of public Mass celebrations in the Diocese of Knoxville on the weekend of Pentecost, May 30-31.
Public Masses were suspended in the diocese on March 20 due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
“During this unprecedented time in history where we have had to weigh our spiritual needs and heartfelt desires against the protection of our general health and the health of our families, I am grateful to all of you for your patience and kindness demonstrated throughout these last few months,” Bishop Stika said in a pastoral letter issued on May 6.
In his letter, Bishop Stika also extends his dispensation indefinitely to all Catholics living in the Diocese of Knoxville from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
“Let me emphasize, if you are vulnerable, elderly, or just not comfortable going to a public Mass beginning May 30-31, please stay home!” Bishop Stika said.
A formal decree from Bishop Stika accompanies his pastoral letter and outlines specific actions that must take place for churches in the diocese to open safely. As the diocese prepares for a return to normal Mass schedules, Bishop Stika said he is “committed to protecting our priests and deacons and the parishioners whom they serve.”
The directives include mandatory use of masks for anyone attending Masses, the use of social distancing, protocols for seating and entering and leaving churches, and specific guidelines for the offering of the Holy Communion.