Pastoral message from Bishop Stika on the coronavirus and diocesan procedures

Jim Wogan News

The Gospel of Matthew (14:26-33) teaches us that faith in Christ, even when things seem impossible or hopeless, can lead to deeper trust. It was Peter’s lack of faith that prevented him from walking on water, and it was Jesus who rescued him.

Without question, due to the coronavirus, we are living through unusual circumstances. The lives and health of people have been impacted directly, and many of us are feeling the effects of the pandemic in other ways, whether it’s concern over the economy or something as common as shopping.

In recent weeks, and especially over the last few days, we have been faced with more questions than answers.

At this time, Churches across our diocese will remain open to all who chose to pray or worship there. 

Please know that I have issued a dispensation to all Catholics in the Diocese of Knoxville to be excused from their obligation to attend Mass through March 28-29.  It is still possible to watch Masses online from our cathedral and many of our parishes.

In addition to this dispensation, I have also directed our pastors and priests to observe the following mandates which were issued by me after much prayer and reflection: 

  • Empty holy water fonts and keep them completely dry.
  • Refrain from passing collection baskets person-to-person, and instead use fixed locations in appropriate aisles so that parishioners can place their donation in it as they process to or from Communion.
  • Refrain from holding hands during the recitation of the Our Father.
  • Omit the Sign of Peace, or exchange it without physical contact.
  • Suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ.
  • Suspend the distribution of the Sacred Host on the tongue and distribute it only in the hand.

These decisions are based solidly on canon law and are issued with respect to the health and safety of all of our parishioners, pastors, and priests.

Additionally, Catholic schools in the diocese are now closed through April 13 and in-home learning will be implemented for students.  

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee has implemented health and safety precautions at all of its facilities in the diocese.

Many parish events have been postponed or canceled.  I recommend you contact your parish office for updates on those.

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has stood strong and been a refuge for the world when we have faced struggles. During this time of uncertainty, I ask you to pray for this Intercession of Mary, and also the Memorare.  

I also pray that you find peace and comfort in your lives and that you remember the hope that Christ brings to us with his promise of salvation, especially when times are uncertain.