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Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland OKs parking lot Masses with strict protocols

Under Mills’ staged plan to reopen Maine, drive-in religious services are permitted starting May 1.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine will enter Stage 1 of Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to gradually and safely reopen the state’s economy on May 1. While the first of the four-stage approach still prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, it does allow for the limited expansion of certain businesses and quality of life activities if appropriate precautions are followed—including religious services.

Following Mills’ unveiling of this plan, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Wednesday it will permit public Masses to take place in parking lots, effective immediately. Limited drive-in and stay-in-your-vehicle religious services will be allowed, Mills says. Strict protocols will be in place for the protection, safety, and health of all participants, the Diocese said in a press release.

The protocols include:

  • Holy Communion will not be distributed until everyone’s safety can be assured through the adoption of appropriate protocols. For the present, parishioners are invited to participate in an Act of Spiritual Communion during these Masses.
  • All parishioners will remain in their cars at all times.
  • Only people who live together should be in the same vehicle.
  • Churches/facilities will not be open for restroom use.
  • Social distancing must be maintained by those who minister at these Masses (celebrant, cantor, lector, etc.).
  • Cars must have one empty parking space between them in the parking lot.
  • Offertory collections will not be held during the Mass. Instead, parishioners are encouraged to donate to their parish online through WeShare (www.portlanddiocese.org/OnlineGiving) or by mailing in donations to the parish office.
Credit: AP
Rev. William Schipper, pastor of Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish, left, wears a mask and gloves out of concern for the coronavirus as he sprinkles holy water and blesses parishioners who remain in their vehicles in the parking lot of the church, on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Spencer, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Diocese encourages Maine parishes to continue offering live-streamed Masses since they have the capacity to reach a large number of people, especially those who are trying to remain safe by staying at home. In addition, parishes will continue to offer drive-thru confessions, drive-in adoration, as well as using social media platforms to offer an assortment of other opportunities for prayer and educational program presentations, the press release says.

“I am grateful to our priests, deacons and dedicated parish staff for the energy and creativity with which they have responded to this crisis, which recognizes that the faith of our people is very much alive even in these difficult circumstances,” Bishop of Portland Robert Deeley said in a statement. “This decision to expand the ways in which we gather for worship reflects that Catholics have a deep desire to gather as a faith community, which is essential to our identity as Christians. But I also know that many Catholics, here in Maine, across the nation, and around our world, feel the profound loss of not being able to receive Holy Communion. While it is a great sacrifice not to share in this sign of our unity, it is also a tremendous act of love and charity towards one another, especially the most vulnerable among us. We continue to look forward to a time when it will be possible safely to receive Holy Communion. May the Lord continue to bless the people of our diocese and provide comfort and protection to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the heroes caring for the afflicted and serving our communities.”

RELATED: Gov. Mills extends statewide stay-at-home order to May 31

In addition to religious services, other businesses and quality of life activities that will be permitted to reopen beginning May 1 include personal services like barbershops and hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, outdoor recreation and restricted use of golf and disc golf courses, state parks, and car dealerships and car washes. 

In order to reopen, various sectors of Maine’s economy will be required to work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to implement practical, reasonable, evidence-informed safety protocols and modifications that protect the health and safety of employees and customers.

RELATED: Maine drive-in theaters will be allowed to open in May as part of the coronavirus economic recovery plan

RELATED: Portland preps for plan to reopen businesses following the coronavirus

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