Bishops’ Conference suspends public services until December 6

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Vienna – New framework order applies from Tuesday 0 o’clock – churches remain open for personal prayer, celebration of not publicly accessible services with maximally ten persons permissible – Archbishop Lackner: “Christian charity means now to act responsibly and protect each other”.

The Catholic Church temporarily suspends the celebration of public services from 17 November to 6 December. This was decided by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference on Monday afternoon in a new framework for the celebration of church services. The regulations implement an agreement to this effect that was reached shortly before by the 16 legally recognized churches and religious communities during a video conference with Minister of Culture Susanne Raab. “The churches will continue to be open for personal prayer during the day,” states the Bishops’ Conference’s regulations. In addition, the celebration of non-publicly accessible church services in the smallest circle on Sundays and weekdays is permitted under certain conditions.

Furthermore, the bishops stipulate that baptisms and marriages must be postponed to a later date. Up to 50 persons are permitted to attend the funeral service. This also applies to church services – i.e. the celebration of Mass or the celebration of the Word of God – immediately before or after the funeral. Furthermore, the “confession can only take place outside the confessional”, preferably in a sufficiently large and well-ventilated room, in which a minimum distance of two meters is maintained, according to the framework regulations. It is recommended to wear a mouth-and-nose protection and a Plexiglas panel separating the persons on a table.

For the sick and dying, the possibility of pastoral care is guaranteed, subject to strict hygiene rules in accordance with the respective facility. In the case of communion and viaticum (provisions for the sick) outside of hospitals and nursing homes, the visit must be well discussed and prepared in advance with the relatives in order to comply with the rules of hygiene.

“With the new rules of the framework order, the Catholic Church continues to support all government measures to overcome the Corona pandemic,” the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Franz Lackner, explained to Kathpress. “Because our country is in an extreme situation and a very far-reaching lockdown comes into effect from Tuesday, the Church will go along with it and from tomorrow suspend public services until December 6. Christian charity now means acting responsibly and protecting one another,” said the Archbishop of Salzburg. “The temporary restrictions are necessary so that we can soon celebrate services together again”.

Also and especially during the lockdown, the religious life continues, the Archbishop said: “The churches remain open for personal prayer and in the smallest circle, behind closed doors, the service is celebrated on behalf of the congregation and often broadcast on the Internet. Above all, we are now supposed to live our faith as a house church. In this way we can be close to one another in our hearts and open our hearts to those who need help.”

Worship services in the smallest circle

There are detailed rules for “non-publicly accessible church services in the smallest circle”. They can be celebrated on Sundays, but also on weekdays, by a maximum of five to ten persons, including the leader, who are specified by name in advance and represent the entire congregation. In doing so, “precautions must be taken to ensure that no other persons are present in the church room for the duration of the celebration,” it is expressly stated.

As before, a minimum distance of 1.5 meters must be maintained during the service and a mouth and nose guard must be worn. If it is not possible for a priest to wear a mouth-and-nose protector for a limited time during liturgical service, larger safety distances must be maintained to compensate for this.

The service should be celebrated with the necessary brevity. Only solo singing is permitted; instrumental music (organ, solo instruments) is to take the place of the other songs. Those who are registered for the service must disinfect their hands when entering the church. Anyone who is ill, feels ill or is suspected of having a contagious disease is not allowed to participate.

As before, it is still not allowed to shake hands in the service to greet peace. There are detailed rules around the reception of communion: During the mass, the hosts must be covered until the communion is given. Shortly before handing out the hosts, the priest must put on the mouth-and-nose protection and thoroughly wash or disinfect his hands during the credence in the chancel.

During communion the minimum distance of 1.5 meters must be maintained. The words “The Body of Christ – Amen” are to be omitted immediately upon receiving communion by the faithful. However, the priest may use these words after “Behold the Lamb of God … Lord, I am not worthy”, to which all answer with “Amen”. Only hand communion is now possible, as in the past: “With Holy Communion in their hands, the faithful step at least two meters to the side to receive Communion in peace and dignity, which is possible with a slight lifting of the MNS,” it continues.

(The full text of the framework regulations can be found at https://www.bischofskonferenz.at/behelfe/corona-rahmenordnung)

  • hector pascua, Source: kathpress.at. Picture: pixabay.com
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