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Diocesan Statement: Prevention and Response to the Coronavirus

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UPDATED 3/12/20

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has been in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is actively coordinating with county public health departments to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries, and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

With active cases of coronavirus present in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia, the Diocese is taking additional precautions to protect the health and safety of those who serve in or are served by the diocese, as well as the broader public, all in an abundance of caution. These precautions now include canceling or postponing all major diocesan non-liturgical events the weekend of March 14 and 15, 2020, as listed below:  


Current Diocesan Events Canceled or Postponed:

-- “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” Conference on Racism, Nativity Catholic Church, Burke, VA, Saturday, March 14

POSTPONED/To be rescheduled.
Email peace@arlingtondiocese.org with questions.

-- The 2020 Women’s Conference, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Herndon, VA, Saturday, March 14 

CANCELED.  Tickets will be refunded.
Contact the Diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life at 703-841-2550.


-- The Shroud of Turin: One of the World’s Greatest Mysteries

- Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 830 23rd St. S., Arlington, VA, March 15

- St. Lawrence Church, 6222 Franconia Rd., Alexandria, VA, March 22 

Contact the Diocesan Office of Faith Formation at 703-841- 2554 with questions.


-- Mary Hasson talk on “Gender Ideology: the cultural and pastoral response”

Contact the Diocesan Office of Faith Formation at 703-841- 2554 with questions.


Parish Response:

Along with our previous recommendations to help prevent further transmissions, Bishop Burbidge directs all parishes, and high school and campus ministries to take the following measures:

  • Suspend the use of a common chalice during Holy Communion
  • Omit or suspend the Sign of Peace
  • Empty Holy Water fonts
  • All liturgical vessels should be cleaned with soap and water after each Mass, including any pyx that will be taken to a nursing home, hospital, the homebound, etc.
  • Surfaces in our churches, offices, and other facilities are to be cleaned as frequently as possible

* With regard to reception of Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue (which is a decision left to each communicant) extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and clergy are encouraged to use reasonable caution to avoid physical contact with others.

Pastors have also been instructed to encourage parishioners who are showing common symptoms of illness (fever, cough, body aches) to avoid coming to Mass or any parish activity until 24 hours after symptoms abate.

Until further notice, Bishop Burbidge has granted dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation for those segments of the community who are most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus (those who are 60 years old or older, have chronic illness, or immune system deficiencies), as well as those who care for a person with such a condition. Those who are exempted should check with their parish or the diocesan website regularly for updates.

Note: Those who refrain from attending Mass due to illness should, if possible, devote time to prayer, observe Mass on television or the internet, and/or pray a Rosary. While nothing can replace attending and participating in Sunday Mass or receiving Holy Communion, those who refrain from Sunday Mass due to illness have not committed a mortal sin. When sick, observing the Sabbath with another holy devotion and prayer demonstrates good will and sincerity.


Diocesan Catholic School Response:

Diocesan Catholic schools have been instructed to cancel all school-sponsored international travel through June 30, 2020. All domestic overnight travel from March 11 through May 1, 2020, is canceled. Day trips will proceed as scheduled, except for trips to New York state. 

With regard to school closures, we are coordinating with local health departments and following public school closures at this time. On March 12, in conjunction with the closure of Loudoun County Public Schools, we closed St. Theresa in Ashburn and Our Lady of Hope in Potomac Falls, both of which are in Loudoun County. Those closures are in effect through Friday, March 20.

On Monday, March 16, all Diocesan Catholic Schools had a pre-planned closure for teacher in-service training. Educators will use that day to further ensure their readiness to shift into an e-learning environment with students, should that become necessary. 


Catholic Charities:

Catholic Charities is actively coordinating with each of its 20 programs and 16 stand-alone locations to ensure that critical services to the poor and vulnerable are delivered consistent with guidelines and best practices prescribed by the CDC relating to the coronavirus. Volunteers and clients should consult with the Catholic Charities website for program updates and when-to-stay-home guidance.


Preventative Measures:

All expert opinion highlights the critical need to wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible; and covering your mouth with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing. 

Diocese of Arlington leadership is coordinating actively with public health officials. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and will take additional measures as circumstances change. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020