The Miami Herald reports –– The Archbishop of Miami on Wednesday strongly told his priests not to conduct any drive-by confessions, no palm pickups in front of church for Palm Sunday and no in-person Masses on Easter Sunday.
“It is not prudent for parishes to plan any activity that would encourage people to leave their homes,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski wrote in a statement he delivered to his priests Wednesday morning. “Therefore, parishes are not to offer ‘drive-through’ palms, confessions or Holy Communion or any similar type of activity.”
He said the activities would be curtailed over the next two weeks, including through Holy Week, which begins Sunday with Palm Sunday, continues through Holy Thursday and Good Friday and culminates with Easter Sunday on April 12.
A few hours later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told people they could congregate at houses of worship, which he exempted from his mandatory stay-at-home order, which goes into effect at 12:01 early Friday morning and expires on April 30.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese said Thursday that the curtailment of services still stands for the Miami Archdiocese, the largest in the state with 1.3 million parishioners and 109 churches. In fact, Mary Ross Agosta said the Archdiocese told its priests on March 18 to curtail all regular services, and Wenski’s Wednesday letter only reinforces that as Holy Week is set to commence.
Wenski’s announcement comes as Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have surpassed 9,000, growing by nearly 1,000 a day. Miami-Dade is the state’s epicenter, with the Florida Department of Health announcing Thursday evening that the county had 2,886 confirmed cases and 20 deaths, up from 11 deaths reported on Wednesday.
“These next two weeks, our health professionals tell us will be very critical — with more people becoming infected and more deaths,” Wenski wrote. “Because many people who are infected may not have any symptoms, the best way to mitigate risk is to practice social isolation and, if one has symptoms or has possibly been exposed, or has an underlying health problem, to self-quarantine.”
Wenski said parishes should still respond to calls from parishioners and respond to emergencies, including visiting sick people in hospitals. He added, however, that clergy should take precautions and do so only if permitted by the hospital.
He urged pastors to continue live-streaming Masses and other services during Holy Week. He suggested that on Palm Sunday, parishioners place a palm frond on their door as “most yards in South Florida have some type of palm in them.”
DeSantis, after resisting for weeks, announced Wednesday afternoon he would sign an executive order limiting activity in Florida to essential services for the next 30 days to try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.