Catholic churches across New Hampshire can begin distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful starting this weekend, even though public access to Mass is still on hold.
The announcement from Bishop Peter A. Libasci comes as an online petition called on the Diocese of Manchester to resume public Masses.
Libasci wrote a letter to parishioners saying the move is an “interim measure” until the churches can reopen for Mass.
“Under this interim plan, priests will be using strict safety precautions and will be provided guidance regarding timing, entry and exit procedures, and training of volunteers,” he wrote in the letter dated Tuesday.
Distribution can start at any parish that can safely do so this weekend. All parishes must begin by the weekend of May 30-31, according to the letter.
“We are continuing to work on the resumption of the celebration of public Mass. One of the items that we are addressing is the State of New Hampshire’s current restriction on gatherings of 10 or more people,” Libasci wrote. “Although this restriction has begun to be relaxed in certain contexts, the state (as of the time of writing) has not yet done so with respect to gatherings for worship.”
The petition on change.org calls for Libasci to reopen all public Masses.
“New Hampshire has an exceedingly small number of persons infected and has lost precious few to COVID-19, and our ability to worship is not only at least as essential as all other services that remained open during this time and those now being allowed to re-open, but is also a right guaranteed by the constitutions of the State of New Hampshire and the United States of America,” the petition reads.
”Church is Essential”
Catholics aren’t the only ones who want their churches to reopen.
A “Church is Essential” service will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Granite State Baptist Church, 236 Sheep Davis Road in Concord. It is being billed as a drive-in outdoor service with proper social distancing.
The guest speaker will be Pastor Charlie Clark of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Berlin, N.J.
Pastor Dave Carlson at Gospel Baptist Church in Manchester plans to attend to bring more attention to why churches should be allowed to reopen. His church blocked off seats, removed song books and has a supply of masks and gloves to promote social distancing.
“While we do have a virus and need to take an abundance of caution, it seems as if a lot of other places are open with stipulations and churches, although they say they are essential here in New Hampshire, we can’t have more than 10 people,” he said.
The church is prepared to take temperatures of those who choose to attend and could add other services, he said.
“We do Facebook live, but people being together is important for a sense of community,” Carlson said.
Churches across the state are anxiously waiting for guidance from the state, he said.
Libasci said he has been “fortified” by the ways parishes have adapted to the shutdown.
“Even though we cannot return fully to public celebration of the Mass immediately, I am very hopeful that we will have public liturgies available soon — even if they will inevitably come with modifications. In the meantime, priests continue to celebrate Holy Mass privately, and to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to individuals,” he wrote.