Update – Friday, March 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

After further prayerful consideration; and after no small amount of sadness; and after hearing from senior pastors and others about the need for a single directive for the entire Archdiocese; and in keeping with the regulations of the other Dioceses of British Columbia; I direct that all Masses, whether Sunday or weekday, beginning on Saturday, March 21, are to be offered without a public congregation, until further notice. This likewise applies to other parish activities and celebrations, such as Stations of the Cross, and so on.

Consequently, all the faithful are dispensed, for the time being, from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

Recognizing the great sacrifice involved for those who are unable to receive the Eucharist, particularly during this time of suffering, I invite all the faithful to deepen their relationship to the Lord by uniting themselves to his Passion. As Holy Mass commemorates Christ’s sacrificial act of love for us, this unprecedented decision was not taken lightly. It follows from the Lord’s commandment that we love one another as he has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34). In this trying time, this means that we must ensure the health and safety of our community by following the directives of our provincial and national health authorities.

Wherever possible – that is, whenever the health and safety of the community can be scrupulously attended to – churches may remain open for private prayer and Adoration. However, for the good of the wider community, seniors or those who have serious medical conditions are strongly urged to remain at home and pray to the Father in secret (cf. Mt 6:6).

Further communications about continuing to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful will be forthcoming.

This directive supersedes previous measures taken in regard to the celebration of Mass during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the assurance of my prayers for you and your families, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver


Update - Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

After weighing before the Lord the gravity of the current coronavirus situation, which is worsening daily, I believe that now is the time to leave to the conscience of each pastor whether and how to celebrate Holy Mass with a congregation – on weekdays or on Sunday – taking account of the circumstances of his own parish.

In every instance, as I have already clearly affirmed, the directives of the public health authorities regarding public gatherings must be very carefully followed.

While I commend the creativity of parishes which distributed Holy Communion outside of Mass as a response to the limitations on public gatherings, I do not believe this should  continue as we move forward. I am concerned that the practice might obscure the meaning of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially over an extended period.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and being unable to participate in person is a deprivation keenly felt by the faithful. Rest assured, however, that I and all our priests will remember you and your families as we offer Mass each day and particularly on Sundays,  as always for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

Let us pray, and pray fervently, that the virus will soon be defeated and we can return to the joyful celebration of Holy Mass, with large congregations that are healthy and spiritually renewed by their Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and works of mercy.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Update - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

  1. All parishes are to continue offering Sunday and daily Mass at the appointed times. Attendance must be kept at or below the 50 people required by the Provincial Health Officer and the Ministry of Health and the “social distancing” of two metres is maintained. Parishes may have Mass in more than one space at a time, such as in the church and in the parish hall, provided that each location has a separate entrance, so that the congregations do not mix.
  2. All communal penitential services are to be cancelled.
  3. Provision is to be made for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be available to all who seek it, taking into account the following considerations:
    • Confessionals should not be used at this time, for health reasons;
    • Confessions should be heard in a room large enough to allow at least a two-metre distance between priest and penitent, but without being overheard. Provision should also be made (a portable screen or other means) for those who wish to confess anonymously. This may require playing chant or other music in the background. I count on you to find other creative ways to make it possible for the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  4. Churches are to remain open as usual, for private prayer. Daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is encouraged for as many hours as possible. Ensure by suitable means that the required “social distancing” is maintained by those at prayer.

Measures previously announced can be found at https://rcav.org/coronavirus/.

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Monday, March 16, 2020

Considering new developments and previous memos issued, the following is a summary of measures currently in effect in the Archdiocese of Vancouver as of today:

New Measures

  1. In accordance with the Public Health Officer Order issued this morning, attendance at Mass or any other parish or Archdiocesan event is limited to a maximum of 50 people, effective immediately.
  2. Avoid physical contact with others. A distance of two metres should be maintained at all times, including in the lineup or at the rail to receive Holy Communion. Congregants should sit in alternating rows. It may be helpful to use masking tape on pew backs to mark off two-metre spacing.
  3. Please remove all hymnals, prayer cards, envelopes and other materials from the pews. Parishes are encouraged to use a projector to provide song lyrics.
  4. If collection baskets with handles are not available, monitored collection baskets should be placed at the back of the church, where people can deposit their offerings.
  5. Following each Mass or gathering, all pew backs, table-tops and other high-touch surfaces should be disinfected, inasmuch as possible.

Previous Measures Remaining in Effect Until Further Notice

Sunday Obligation

  1. In order to continue assisting local public health efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is lifted for everyone.
  2. Those over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay home rather than attending Sunday Mass, as are those who feel even remotely unwell and those who believe they might be genuinely at risk.
  3. Those who do not attend Mass are encouraged to watch Mass online or on TV, or have a time of prayer, if possible with the readings of the Sunday, and a spiritual communion.

Reception of Holy Communion

  1. As a result of direct consultation with the Public Health Officer, the faithful are strongly recommended to receive Holy Communion only in the hand.
    Those distributing Holy Communion should to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact when placing the Host into the hands of the faithful. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should not receive the Precious Blood before the general distribution of Holy Communion. Hand sanitizers should be used, or washing carefully with soap and water practiced, before and after the distribution of Holy Communion.  Furthermore, no one should feel obligated to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion if they would rather not at this time.
  1. Respecting the right of the faithful to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, an announcement is to be made at all Masses during this period, that those who wish to receive Communion on the tongue should come forward after all other communicants have received or after Mass. Alternatively, one priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion can be designated specifically to distribute Communion only on the tongue.
  2. Forgo Holy Communion from the Chalice for the congregation.

Other Measures

  1. Offertory Processions are to be omitted.
  2. For all Masses, celebrants/deacons should omit the Sign of Peace from the liturgical rite, as is permitted by the Roman Missal.
  3. In order to reduce social isolation, parishes are strongly encouraged to find ways to mobilize people to make phone calls to those who must remain at home, and to provide services such as delivering food and necessary items. Being in regular contact with the parish community will alleviate loneliness for the homebound.
  4. If possible, hand sanitizer or hand washing stations should be available to all at the entrance of the church, parish hall and other parish facilities.

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In order to continue assisting local public health efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is lifted for everyone until further notice.

Churches will remain open and Masses will be offered, but the recommendations of the Ministry of Health to restrict the number attending to 250 must be observed.

As this situation continues to evolve rapidly, I encourage Catholics to sign up for email updates from your parish and the Archdiocese, so that we can keep you informed of further developments as they occur. Please sign up here: rcav.org/corona.

With the assurance of my prayers for all of you, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Yesterday afternoon, amid increasing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, British Columbia’s Public Health Officer directed “all event organizers to cancel any gathering larger than 250 people.” Respecting this new directive and until further notice, and out of prudent concern for the well-being of the entire community, attendance at Mass or any other Church events in the Archdiocese of Vancouver is to be restricted to a maximum of 250 people.

I realize that a number of parishes will have difficulty in keeping Mass attendance below 250 this weekend, and that managing this requirement will call for creativity and compassion on the part of pastors and parish staff.

If any of the faithful are unable to attend Sunday Mass due to these restrictions, they may be encouraged to find another Mass to participate in. However, given that someone has attempted to go to Mass and could not do so for reasons beyond their control, they have fulfilled the obligation. It is always good to encourage those who do not attend Mass to have a time of prayer, if possible with the readings of the Sunday and a spiritual communion.

The faithful are reminded to avoid physical contact with others at Mass, as much as possible, and should attempt to maintain a safe distance from one another. Those over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay home rather than attending Sunday Mass, as are those who feel even remotely unwell and those who believe they might be genuinely at risk.

Please remember to take into account the recommendations made in previous memos on this subject, all of which can be found online at rcav.org/coronavirus. These measures are only temporary, in order to get us through these challenging times, and your patience and goodwill are greatly appreciated.

During this highly unusual situation, let us join together in praying for all the members of our community, especially those who are most vulnerable, those who have already lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Dear Fathers, Deacons, Parish Admin Staff:

This afternoon, British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry held a teleconference with faith community leaders from across the Province to discuss preventative measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. They emphasized that the situation is continuously evolving, and new recommendations will be made as circumstances warrant. Daily briefings on the coronavirus situation are posted each afternoon on http://www.bccdc.ca/.

Arising from today’s consultation, the following temporary measures are to be put in place immediately in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Vancouver:

Sunday Obligation

Out of consideration for the well-being of others in the community, the elderly, anyone with an underlying health condition and those who feel even remotely unwell are excused from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass.

If they have access to television or the internet, those who remain at home may watch Mass. Attached to this memo is also a Prayer for Spiritual Communion which may also be used in these circumstances.

In order to reduce social isolation, parishes are encouraged to find ways to mobilize people to make phone calls to those who must remain at home, and to provide services such as delivering food and necessary items. Being in regular contact with the parish community will alleviate loneliness for the homebound.

Reception of Holy Communion

As a result of direct consultation with the Public Health Officer, the faithful are strongly recommended to receive Holy Communion only in the hand.

Those distributing Holy Communion are encouraged to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact when placing the Host into the hands of the faithful. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should not receive the Precious Blood before the general distribution of Holy Communion. Hand sanitizers should be used, or washing carefully with soap and water practiced, before and after the distribution of Holy Communion. Furthermore, no one should feel obligated to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion if they would rather not at this time.

Respecting the right of the faithful to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, an announcement is to be made, beginning on the weekend of March 14/15 and for all subsequent Masses during this period, that those who wish to receive Communion on the tongue should come forward after all other communicants have received. Alternatively, one priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion can be designated specifically to distribute Communion only on the tongue.

Kiss of Peace

For all Masses, it is recommended that celebrants/deacons omit the Kiss of Peace from the liturgical rite, as is permitted by the Roman Missal.

Parish Events

For all parish activities, the following recommendations should be followed:

  • Hand sanitizer or hand washing stations should be available to all at the entrance of the church, parish hall and other parish facilities;
  • Meeting rooms should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each activity;
  • The Public Health Officer suggests that people maintain a two-metre space (approximately two arms’ length) between one another, to reduce any potential transmission of the coronavirus.

These steps are taken solely for the safety of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Please join me in praying for all those who have become sick from the coronavirus, those attending to the sick and those working to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It is my hope that these measures, and any that follow in the coming days, will only be needed for a short time.

+J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Update - Thursday, March 5, 2020

Reverend and dear Father:

The Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the senior public health official for BC, has issued some recommendations in reference to preventing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. In line with those recommendations, I ask that you put the following measures in place.

  • At the Sign of Peace, a bow instead of the usual greeting;
  • Remove Holy Water from fonts which are used by our parishioners to bless themselves;
  • Forgo Holy Communion from the chalice for the congregation;
  • Also, people should be reminded that, as always, if they are sick they should not be coming to Holy Mass or other events. In addition, people returning from affected areas in the world should follow health ministry guidelines on being isolated from the public.

Given that there is no guarantee that a communicant’s hands are germ-free, people remain free to receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hand.

Apart from the above, the following statement from the Ministry of Health should be followed: “The most important measures people in B.C. can take to prevent respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, are cleaning your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately and staying home and away from others if you are sick.”

We will be updating our COVID-19 virus page with the latest information, which can be found at rcav.org/coronavirus

Thank you for your attention to these details and our concern for everyone’s health.

+J. Michael Miller, CSB

Archbishop of Vancouver


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