Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care


  1. Cloth face coverings (masks) are to be worn by everyone approaching church and inside church.
    1. The priest celebrant and other ministers will not wear masks or gloves during the liturgy given they are more than six feet from the assembly during Mass.
    2. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing
  2. Collection Basket: Baskets should not be passed from person to person.
    1. Long-handled baskets could be acceptable if the ushers can remain a suitable distance from others.
    2. Alternative: set up boxes or collection points where the faithful can place their contributions, for example at the entrance/exit of the church.
  3. Holy Water and Baptismal fonts will remain empty.
  4. Music: Because health experts indicate that singing produces 6-10x more droplets from our mouths than recitation, choirs/singing are discouraged during Mass.
    1. If there is a choir present, it should be as small as possible with each member spaced about 10’ apart.
  5. Sign of Peace: The invitation to the faithful to exchange a sign of peace is omitted.
  6. Cleaning and Disinfecting: To help stop the spread of the virus, effective cleaning and disinfecting is essential. It is very important to be able to know the distinction between these two practices. It is also advisable to ensure that the products being used are effective in disinfecting as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Please visit for important information regarding proper cleaning and sanitizing.
    1. Clergy, and others who assist, are to wash their hands before and after set-up for Mass as well as after Mass and clean up. Any and all vessels used at Mass must be cleaned with soap and warm water.
    2. Hand sanitizer is to be available in the sanctuary as needed during a liturgy. If possible, hand sanitizer should also be placed near the entrances of the church for the faithful. The faithful are invited to bring their own supply of hand sanitizer to use before Holy Communion.
    3. It is advisable to remove as much as possible from the pews— e.g., Mass books, envelopes—to make it easier to clean and disinfect.
    4. Consider propping open all necessary doors to minimize touching of doors.
    5. After each liturgy, items used by the public—e.g. door handles, rest rooms—should be disinfected.
    6. If parishes do not have available maintenance staff for this level of cleaning, they could ask some healthy parishioners to help with this task after Mass.
  7. Physical Distancing
    1. Recommendation: Use tape to close off rows of seating in the church, in order to guide the faithful to sit at least six feet from each other (for example, allow seating every third row).
    2. In areas where the faithful might stand in line (for example, waiting to go to confession or to receive Holy Communion), place tape on the floor to indicate proper spacing between persons.
    3. Station ushers at the entrances of the church to help “direct traffic,” to ensure that the faithful keep six feet from each other while entering and exiting the building. 
      1. Suggestion: dismiss the congregation by rows at the end of Mass to avoid crowding at the exits.
      2. Members of a single household may enter and exit together, since they do not need to practice physical distancing with each other.
    4. If all the available spaces are filled, do not admit additional people to the church building.
    5. Encourage the faithful to maintain physical distancing everywhere on the church property (on the church steps, in the parking lot, etc.).
    6. Develop a plan for restroom use: limit the number of people who enter a restroom at the same time, and place tape on the floor outside of the restroom to indicate where people should stand in line to wait for the restroom, while maintaining a 6-foot distance from each other.
  8. Specific Provisions for the Parts of the Mass
    1. A priest with a respiratory infection of any kind should avoid celebrating public Mass or administering sacraments during this phase. The same holds for other sacristans, ushers, etc.
    2. The priest celebrant and other ministers should not wear masks or gloves during the celebration of Mass. Instead, they should remain more than six feet from the congregation during the entirety of the Mass. In such circumstances, there is no substantial risk of infection.
      1. To the extent possible, the other ministers (deacon, servers, lectors) should maintain a 6-foot distance from the priest and from each other.
      2. Maintain a proper distance in the sacristy and during the entrance and recessional processions.
  9. Holy Communion: Communion will be distributed after the final blessing. 
    1. To the extent possible, those in line for Holy Communion should maintain a six feet distance between each other and those in the pews.
    2. To the extent possible, the priest and ministers (deacon, lector, servers) should remain six feet apart from each other.
  10. Communion on the tongue vs. in the hand: We have carefully considered the question of Communion on the tongue vs. Communion in the hand. Given the Church’s existing guidance on this point and recognizing the differing judgments and sensibilities that are involved, we believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.
    1. If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.
    2. At the conclusion of the distribution of Holy Communion, the priest (and any other ministers) return the remaining hosts to the tabernacle.
    3. The faithful may depart after making a brief prayer of thanksgiving.
    4. Distribution of the Eucharist in another vessel or container (a plastic bag, paper cup, or a metal pyx) is not warranted from a public health perspective and may even increase risk: 
      1. CDC guidance suggests that the virus is not easily transmitted by food, whereas passing other containers from person to person involves more contact with surfaces. 
      2. From a sacramental perspective, there are additional reasons to discourage this practice, dealing with reverence for the sacrament, the problem of self-communication, the danger of profanation, and the problem of purifying or disposing of containers.
  11. Consecration of Holy Communion
    1. If hosts for the communion of the faithful are to be consecrated, they could be placed on a second corporal towards the side of the altar. This allows the priest to proffer the words of consecration directly over the host he will consume, with the other hosts on the altar but not directly in front of the priest as he speaks the Eucharistic prayer (anaphora).
  12. Distribution of Holy Communion after the Final Blessing
    1. This is our recommended option, because it respects the symbolic and liturgical integrity of the Mass (which should be celebrated without mask or gloves)
      1. It gives a greater freedom to the faithful to determine whether or not they will come forward for Holy Communion (some may be nervous about doing so)
      2. It also provides for additional precautions to reduce risk.
    2. At the start of Mass, or at a suitable point during Mass, the priest should explain that those who desire to receive Holy Communion may do so at the conclusion of the Mass. 
    3. He may add that the faithful should maintain a 6-foot distance from each other as they come forward for Holy Communion.
    4. The Precious Blood should not be distributed to the faithful, nor should the faithful receive the Eucharist by intinction (dipping the Body in the Precious Blood). 
    5. A deacon or a concelebrating priest, if present, may receive by intinction.
    6. The priest (and, if present, the deacon) would consume the Eucharist in the normal way but would not immediately proceed to distribute Communion to the servers or the faithful. 
      1. Rather, the newly-consecrated hosts would be briefly placed in the tabernacle awaiting the conclusion of the Mass (or keep on the altar).
      2. After the concluding blessing and the dismissal, the priest (and deacon, if present) remain in the sanctuary. At the chair, the priest removes his cope and the deacon removes his dalmatic.
      3. A small table should be placed at each communion station, with an unfolded corporal and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
      4. The priest (and any other ministers distributing Holy Communion) should use hand sanitizer immediately before approaching the tabernacle. He may also don a surgical mask or cloth face covering.
    7. If the priest who has celebrated the Mass is in a higher-risk group, a different priest, arriving at the conclusion of Mass, might distribute Holy Communion in his place.
    8. Now vested in alb and stole, the priest retrieves the newly-consecrated hosts from the tabernacle or the altar.
    9. The priest (and other ministers if present) proceeds to the place prepared for distribution of Communion. Each stands next to a table with corporal and hand sanitizer in order to distribute Communion.
    10. The faithful should remove any face coverings before coming forward for Holy Communion.
    11. Holy Communion may not be distributed with gloves, nor may it be received in the hand if a member of the faithful is wearing gloves.
      1. Hand hygiene is effective against the virus. In these circumstances, gloves are not needed if the priest performs hand hygiene.
    12. The faithful receive Holy Communion in the normal way. 
      1. If the priest senses that his fingers have contacted a person’s hands or mouth, he should pause, place the ciborium on the corporal, and use hand sanitizer. 
      2. He may also arrange for an ablution cup to be on the table and may purify his fingers in the ablution cup before using hand sanitizer.
      3. He may repeat this process as often as he judges necessary during the distribution of Holy Communion. 
      4. It is not necessary, however, for him to use hand sanitizer between each communicant, unless he makes actual contact.