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Knoxville diocese says parishioners are not obligated to attend Sunday Mass for three weeks

Bishop Richard Stika released a list of mandates on Saturday, which outline how the Diocese of Knoxville will handle the coronavirus pandemic.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Catholics within the Diocese of Knoxville will not have an obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the next three weeks, a new mandate released by Bishop Richard Stika said. 

That includes the weekends of March 14-15, March 21-22 and March 28-29.

"After much prayer and reflection, I have issued a formal decree that addresses the way in which we will now celebrate Masses during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to my own personal discernment, I have sought the advice of health care experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and clergy who are well-versed on canon law," Bishop Stika said in a statement. 

While The Diocese of Knoxville is not cancelling services at this time, they are implementing safety precautions within mass which include refraining from holding hands during Our Father, omitting the Sign of Peace, and suspending distribution of communion: 

1. The faithful’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass is dispensed if they have an illness or because they are older adults who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease; are individuals with severely compromised immune systems; and caretakers of anyone at risk.

2. Empty holy water fonts and keep them completely dry.

3. Refrain from passing collection baskets person-to-person, and instead use fixed locations in appropriate aisles so that parishioners can place their donation in it as they process to or from Communion.

4. Refrain from holding hands during the recitation of the Our Father.

5. Omit the Sign of Peace, or exchange it without physical contact.

6. Suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ.

7. Suspend the distribution of the Sacred Host on the tongue and distribute it only in the hand.

All weekend masses at the Cathedral will be live-streamed via YouTube.

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