NEWARK, NJ - Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, Archbishop of Newark, has announced a three-phase gradual reopening process for churches throughout the Archdiocese to ensure the health and well-being of clergy and faithful. 

Phase One allows for the reopening of churches in the Archdiocese for private prayer only on Sunday, and, following all public health guidelines, once pastors determine they can safely do so. As part of Phase One, the Sacrament of Reconciliation also may be celebrated if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn. 

 An Archdiocesan Task Force has continued to monitor the expert guidance of public health officials and federal and state public officials, who have cautioned not to rush into reopening churches to the faithful before manageable safety protocols can be put in place.

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All pastors, parochial administrators, chaplains and other pastoral leaders are expected to follow these Phase One directives without exception:

  •  Cardinal Tobin continues to dispense the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday as well as from “Easter duty” (the obligation to receive Holy Communion during the season of Easter)

  • Churches may be opened solely for personal prayer during limited and designated hours.  Individuals and families may enter the church for quiet prayer only. During opening hours, a parish staff member must be physically present in the church to ensure social distancing and sanitizing. No gatherings are permitted.

  •  In accordance with national, state, and local health directives, those who show symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been exposed to an infected person are not permitted to enter the church for 14 days.

  •  Holy water fonts must remain empty until further notice.

  • Hand sanitizer should be made available throughout the church.

  • Public celebrations of liturgies, devotions, or other group prayer are not permitted at this time. A guide for livestreamed Mass can be found at: https://www.rcan.org/parish-mass-livestreams-and-more

  • Masks must be worn by all individuals while in the church, and persons are asked to bring their own hand sanitizer or wipes.

  • Individuals and families must maintain social distancing (six feet) between each person or family while in the church.

  • The pastor will ensure that there is prominent notification within the church regarding the requirement of masks and social distancing.

  • Pews, door handles and knobs, restrooms, and high traffic areas of the church will be wiped down and sanitized at regular intervals, along with the removal of trash and other items from the pews.

  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation can be offered at specified and limited times.

  • Confessionals are not to be used.

  • Social distancing must be maintained by those waiting for the sacrament

  • Masks must be worn by confessor and penitent.

Cardinal Tobin and the Archdiocesan Task Force are currently determining the timing for the implementation of the next two phases and is planning for how public worship will be celebrated with respect to any new regulations. Phase Two will incorporate the celebration of weekday Masses and Phase Three will permit Sunday Masses.

More information about the Archdiocese of Newark’s three-phase gradual reopening process, along with specific guidance, is available at www.rcan.org.

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