Updated guidance on the commencement of public celebrations, effective May 8

On May 7, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama sent the following letter to his brother priests, providing updated directives for Masses and Sacraments as North Carolina enters phase 1 of the plan for a gradual return to normalcy, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

Dear Brother Priests,

It remains a difficult challenge during this time to balance our need for the Sacraments with the need to protect public health.

As people of faith, we all are called upon to make sacrifices that will benefit others. The exercise of these current limitations, as difficult and frustrating as they may be, should be viewed as charitable acts offered for others.

We have been presented with a challenge that should call us to respond not as individuals who put their needs first but as a family united in Christ’s love.

As we begin to move through evolving “phases” of public interaction, I would ask that you as my brother priests, as well as the entire community of the faithful, do so with patience and humility.

I will continue to waive the obligation of the faithful to attend Sunday Mass. At this time, for a great many in our diocese, a return to Mass in any form will not be prudent for health reasons, nor practical because of social distancing. I encourage the continued livestreaming of Masses for all parishes who are currently doing so.

As we begin to explore offering Sacraments as well as prayer and adoration in our churches as outlined in the following, we will do so following community health guidance. We will also be respectful and reverent to the Sacraments as we adhere to that health guidance.

Please pray for each other, especially for those who are ill or afraid.

Please pray for healthcare professionals and for all those whose daily lives are impacted by this situation.

Please also pray that our actions reflect to others the goodness of God and that together we can give His strength to all those who are suffering and burdened by this situation.

In Christ,
† Luis Rafael Zarama, J.C.L.

Guidance on the Commencement of the Public Celebration of Mass, other Sacraments, Liturgies and Public Devotions

Provided that parishes and missions in the Diocese of Raleigh can meet the appropriate social distancing requirements stated as well as logistical arrangements, the celebration of public liturgies and devotional prayer may be celebrated in groups, as stated below.

The Celebration of Sunday Mass and Daily Mass

As previously stated by Bishop Zarama, the faithful are dispensed from their Sunday Mass obligation, thus those with pre-existing health conditions or other vulnerable people are invited to remain at home, accessing the parish or other Sunday Mass via live stream, if at all possible.

The celebration of Mass is permitted in an unenclosed space, if the faithful follow the recommendations for social distancing to reduce the possibility of transmission of the virus. Arrangements and/or instruction to the faithful should be made as soon as possible by each pastor to allow preparation for and the participation of the faithful, including timing for the celebration(s), parking, seating, audio transmission and the use of live stream as a means to communication, both for those physically present at the liturgy and to those joining only via the web, the liturgical ministry of the faithful, offertory logistics and all other preparatory matters. As part of this instruction, the faithful are to be advised that they may not remain in their respective vehicles during these liturgical celebrations.

If during this period, inclement weather for Sunday Mass is anticipated, the faithful are to be instructed to join the celebration of the parish Mass via live stream or another live-stream celebration of Sunday Mass being broadcast that Sunday.

For the celebration of daily Mass, if the number of the faithful at the liturgy does not exceed ten (10) persons, Mass may be celebrated within the parish church or chapel, provided that all present comply with social distancing requirements, to the extent possible. Should the number of the faithful generally exceed ten (10) persons, the celebration of the Mass is to remain available for the prayer of the faithful via live stream, if at all possible.

The Distribution of Holy Communion and the Exchange of the Sign of Peace

  • The distribution of Holy Communion is only to be by means of one species, the Sacred Body. In addition to distancing precautions, when distributing Holy Communion, both Ordinary and Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers may utilize hand sanitizer and a mask.
  • The extension of the Sign of Peace is to remain omitted at this time.

The Celebration of Other Masses, Liturgies and Devotions

The celebration of other Masses, liturgies and devotions, such as a Nuptial Mass or the Rite of Matrimony and also Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are permitted with groups, not to exceed ten (10) persons, provided that all comply with social distancing requirements, to the extent possible.

The Celebration of Other Masses, Liturgies and Devotions, cont.

The celebration of a Funeral Mass or liturgy are permitted with groups, not to exceed fifty (50) persons, provided that all present comply with social distancing requirements, to the extent possible.

Social Distancing Requirements Summary and Other Recommendations

As stated by Governor Cooper in his Executive Order, social distancing is advised as follows:

  • Maintain at least six (6) feet social distancing from other individuals, with the exception of family or household members.
  • Wear a cloth mask or face covering during all indoor public settings and when outdoors, where at least six (6) feet of distancing may not be maintained, with the exception among those who are family and other household members.
  • Carry and utilize hand sanitizer, when outside the home.
  • Wash hands regularly, using soap and water for at least twenty seconds.
  • Regularly clean contacted surfaces, such as steering wheels, wallets, and phones.
  • If you are ill, be mindful of others by staying at home until the illness has passed.

NC Governor's Executive Orders (PDF)