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On Pentecost, Bishop Burbidge celebrates first public Mass since mid-March

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On Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the first public Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington since public Masses were suspended in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

“How providential that we are reunited on the solemnity of Pentecost,” Bishop Burbidge said, adding that Pentecost is “the birthday of the church and the fulfillment of Our Lord’s promise to be with us always.” Throughout the Mass, Bishop Burbidge emphasized the words of the Pentecost responsorial psalm, “Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth.” 

He acknowledged that “our world and nation has been devastated as a result of the coronavirus,” citing the many who have died and those who are still suffering, and acknowledging the physical and emotional toll of the pandemic, which has “drastically altered our way of living.” He said we must be united in prayer for those who have died, those still suffering and for “those who are working tirelessly to stop the spread of the virus.”

Bishop Burbidge also called on the Holy Spirit to renew our nation, “especially at this time, after the brutal murder of Mr. (George) Floyd, and we sadly acknowledge the pain and grief of his family and friends, members of the African-American community and all of us.” 

He continued, “We denounce the abuse of force and power used by law enforcement officials, so unbecoming and below the decency of our nation,” and also acknowledged “the vandalism, the violence and the riots occurring throughout our nation at this time, which are making a tragic situation even more difficult.” 

Bishop Burbidge said he has asked “all in the diocese to join together in asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that we may address effectively and peacefully the root causes of the injustice that we have seen and to work together in restoring harmony and unity to our nation and all of our communities.”

He said we all must ask the Lord to send out his Spirit upon each one of us, “that we may be the witnesses our world and nation need now more than ever. … We are witnesses of the Risen Lord if we live in right relationship with one another and allow nothing to divide us, when we respect the dignity of every human person and use our gifts in service of one another, and forgive even those who have offended us.”

The Cathedral of St. Thomas More has a seating capacity of 1,200 and said it would allow 350 individuals to enter for Mass to ensure proper social distancing. About 100 were present, while about 2,750 tuned in via livestream across all platforms. All Massgoers were asked to wear face coverings while on parish property and instructed to keeps their masks on except when receiving Holy Communion.  

All 70 parishes in the Diocese of Arlington are now authorized, but not mandated, to celebrate public Mass together at up to 50 percent capacity, consistent with federal, state and local safety guidelines and guidelines issued by the Diocese. It is up to each pastor's discretion to determine if a parish is ready to reopen consistent with those guidelines.

Bishop Burbidge is continuing the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until further notice. Those who are 65 years old or older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, are encouraged to avoid gatherings of the general public and attending public liturgies. Sunday Masses from the cathedral will continue to be livestreamed. 

Bishop Burbidge announced March 16 that until further notice, all public celebrations of the Mass were suspended throughout the Diocese. Most churches remained open to the public, so that parishioners could still come to pray while keeping a safe distance from one another and not exceeding the 10-person limit.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020