According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention COVID-19 is present in all 50 states and is being spread within the community, that is, the virus is now native to local communities in all states in our diocese and is being conveyed person to person. Although the rate of spread is not the same from state to state, circumstances are changing rapidly. New orders are issued on an almost daily basis. In order to provide protection for the faithful, and to further emphasize the serious risk of this disease, the Diocese must impose a uniform rule for all it's parishes.
Given the above, it is incumbent upon the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America to act in the best interest of its faithful. It is crucial that the Divine Services continue in each parish and monastery of the diocese if at all possible. But because community spread is rampant now, and because Italy has provided us with an excellent example of the negative outcomes we can expect if this virus is not taken seriously, and because the diocese cares for both the spiritual and temporal health of its faithful, beginning on Monday, 10/23 March, 2020, with the blessing of Archbishop Peter, public services will no longer be held in the diocese until further notice. Divine Services will be conducted by the smallest number of clergymen and support staff possible, but with a hard cap of 10 individuals maximum. Those who wish to commune may do so at home by making an appointment with their parish priest. The faithful may not commune in any other way than with a home visit or a visit to a medical facility. A Public Health Protocol will be sent to each of the priests and must be followed in the case of a home/medical facility visit. The frequency of partaking of Holy Communion for each of the faithful is strictly at the discretion of the parish priest. It is expected that in these extraordinary times the faithful would likely partake less often than they might if the churches of our diocese were open as usual. This is especially true for those who are not ill. As the pandemic develops there could be very many ill that our priests will have to care for. Those who are not ill need to consider the strain this pandemic will take on our clergy as they care for the sick and dying. It is inappropriate for the faithful to quarrel with the priest about the frequency of partaking, but of course all such civil discussions are welcome. The priest should, if necessary, prepare more of the Reserve Sacrament at any of the Saturday or Sunday Divine Liturgies during this pandemic. The faithful will be communed only with the Reserve Sacrament – the Mysteries consecrated at the Divine Liturgy will not be brought from the church to the faithful under any circumstances. The civil authorities are under much pressure now, and now is not the time to have a First Amendment debate with a law enforcement officer who pulls a priest over who is carrying a chalice with the Divine Gifts in his car. Discretion is the better part of valor and we will exercise discretion – not seek to antagonize the civil authorities in this way. There will be no exceptions to the above. Those with questions are asked to contact Fr. Gregory Joyce, Diocesan Secretary with questions or for clarification. Fr. Gregory will discuss all issues with Archbishop Peter.
It should be known that three physicians who are practicing Orthodox Christians assisted in the creation of this policy.