June 1, 2021
Letter to the Faithful on New Protocols for Worship and Ministry
Dear Friends in Christ:
Starting Friday, June 18, 2021, Pastors may accommodate the faithful for the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass as well as other sacramental and worship services at 100% of the seating capacity in the parish churches.
I am rescinding the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Starting Sunday, June 20, 2021 all the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Sacramento are obliged to personally attend and actively participate in the Sunday celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass (Canon 1247). Pastors and the faithful are counseled that individuals are not obligated to attend the Eucharist on Sunday or other obligatory solemnities if they are sick, have a vulnerable health condition, are caring for someone with a vulnerable health condition, or have other serious reasons (Canon 1245; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181).
All the faithful are reminded of the perennial obligation to keep holy the Lord’s Day by observing Sunday with prayer, spiritual reflection, works of mercy, fellowship, and rest.
Pastors and the faithful should continue to observe sensible public health precautions:
- Practice frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.
- Refrain from hand shaking and other forms of physical contact with others outside of one’s household.
- Continue to clean the pews at least twice on Sundays and other days when there are multiple services.
- Facial masks are still encouraged.
- Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers should continue to use facial masks for the distribution of communion. During the distribution of communion priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers should have sanitizer available for use when needed.
For communion, the distribution of the cup is still suspended.
The exchange of the sign of peace during Mass may resume. The faithful should refrain from gestures of physical touching with persons outside of one’s household. A respectful bow or wave is encouraged.
Congregational singing may resume. Musicians and choirs should observe sensible public health precautions. Pastors should use their discretion based on local circumstances regarding the use of facial masks by musicians, cantors, and choirs.
Liturgical processions may resume: Entrance procession, the gospel procession, the procession of the offertory gifts, and the recessional procession.
It is recommended that the collection baskets be handled only by the ushers rather than passed from person to person.
Holy Water may be made available to the faithful in the traditional fonts at the entrance of the church.
Livestreaming the Sunday celebrations of the Sacrifice of the Mass for the benefit of those who cannot attend in person due to illness or other circumstances noted above is encouraged.
All the faithful are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccination when available. Consult with your doctor regarding any personal health concerns.
Other ministerial, catechetical, and social gatherings may resume while also observing sensible public health precautions as outlined above. Pastors should take additional precautions for the handling of food and the provision of materials to avoid the use of shared utensils. Avoiding self-serve options for food and drink is encouraged.
The return to regular congregational gatherings will be welcomed by many. Mutual respect, charity and patience should be cheerfully exercised so that all the members of the Body of Christ are welcomed and encouraged by this blessed opportunity. Over the course of the long pandemic journey we have learned the personal duty we have for one another’s spiritual and physical health whenever we gather and even when we are apart. The risks of infection still threaten us. Our communion with the charity and mercy of Christ will help safeguard us and lead us on the path of holiness together.
May the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, bring an end to the pandemic and fill us with the joy and hope of the Lord Jesus.
Bishop of Sacramento
On March 13, 2020, I granted a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation for all members of the Catholic Faithful in the Diocese of Sacramento, in order to mitigate the further spread and devastation brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Having reviewed the latest information and protocols from health officials, a general dispensation is no longer necessary. Consequently, by this decree, I hereby lift the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, effective Sunday, June 20, 2021. The obligation for the Catholic faithful to be present and participate in Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is hereby restored (1983 CIC c. 1247) as of that date.
Pastors and other members of the Christian faithful are counseled that individuals are not obligated to attend the Eucharist on Sunday or other obligatory solemnities if they are sick, have a vulnerable health condition, are caring for someone with a vulnerable health condition, or have other serious reasons (1983 CIC 1245; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181).
I instruct the pastors of parishes in the Diocese to properly discern means of continuing and implementing health and safety protocols as part of the concerted effort to be relieved of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pastors are to begin offering the appropriate number of Masses to accommodate the return of the faithful to prayer, worship, and communion with one another.
Please pray for those afflicted with COVID-19, their families, and all caregivers. May intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary bring us the healing mercy and grace of her Son, Jesus.
Given at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Sacramento, California, on the first day of June, in the year of Our Lord, two thousand and twenty-one.
Bishop of Sacramento
February 6, 2021
Letter to the Faithful on SCOTUS Ruling on Indoor Religious Services
Dear Friends in Christ:
The Supreme Court of the United States has issued an emergency ruling regarding indoor religious services. This ruling allows churches to open immediately and accommodate congregants up to a given percentage based on the colored tier structure adopted in the state.
Parishes in the “purple tier” are now able to open for indoor worship up to 25% capacity. I have informed our priests that if they can do so safely and responsibly, they may begin to offer Mass and other services immediately under this guideline.
With this decision, I am grateful that the Supreme Court has recognized the effective ability of church congregations to gather safely and responsibly while abiding by reasonable public health precautions.
I express my gratitude and admiration for the clergy and parishioners who have worked diligently to provide safe and reverential occasions for worship throughout the pandemic. In returning to indoor worship, we will continue the practice of prudent public health measures: wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and maintaining social distancing.
The coronavirus still poses serious risks of infection, especially for the most vulnerable. The same prudent practices that we have employed for indoor worship must also be practiced outside in the community.
All the faithful are urged to keep holy the Lord’s Day by safely attending Mass in person or reverently participating in Mass through the internet or other media. Besides the opportunities to unite ourselves to the Sacrifice of the Mass, seek to sanctify the whole day with prayer, family fellowship, and works of mercy. Catholics in the Diocese of Sacramento continue to be dispensed from the Sunday obligation to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass in person.
To promote the health of yourself and your community, I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when possible. Your doctor can answer any questions regarding any personal health care concerns. My coworkers and I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to address any moral concerns: https://www.scd.org/news/covid-faq
Let us open our hearts to receive the Eucharist with greater piety and charity. Our communities have already endured so much during this pandemic. I pray that the coming Lenten season and its penitential practices will also provide opportunities to be transformed by the Exodus journey from death to life, from darkness to light, from sin to grace with our Lord Jesus.
May the intercessions of both our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph join with our prayers for God’s mercy to end the pandemic, bring healing to the afflicted, protection and perseverance to those who care for them, and consolation to those who mourn the death of loved ones.
Bishop of Sacramento
6 de febrero 2021
Carta a los Fieles Sobre la Resolución de SCOTUS Sobre Servicios Religiosos en Interiores
Estimados Amigos en Cristo:
La Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos ha emitido una resolución de emergencia con respecto a los servicios religiosos en interiores. Esta decisión permite que las iglesias abran inmediatamente y acomoden a los feligreses para el culto público hasta un porcentaje determinado según la estructura de niveles de colores adoptada en el estado para indicar el riesgo de contaminación.
Las parroquias en el "nivel morada" ahora pueden ofrecer misa en interiores hasta un 25% de su capacidad. He dirigido a los párrocos que, si pueden hacerlo de manera segura y responsable, comenzarán a ofrecer misa y otros servicios de inmediato bajo esta directiva.
Con esta decisión, estoy agradecido de que la Corte Suprema haya reconocido la habilidad efectiva de las congregaciones parroquiales para reunirse de manera segura y responsable mientras cumplen con las precauciones razonables de salud pública.
Expreso la gratitud y admiración de este servidor por el clero y los feligreses que han trabajado diligentemente brindando ocasiones seguras y respetosos para el culto público durante la pandemia. Al regresar al culto público en interiores, continuaremos la práctica de medidas prudentes de salud pública: usar mascarillas, lavarse las manos con frecuencia y mantener el distanciamiento social.
El coronavirus todavía presenta graves riesgos de infección, especialmente para los más vulnerables. Las mismas prácticas prudentes que hemos empleado para el culto público en el interior de nuestros templos también deben practicarse en la comunidad.
Animo a todos los fieles a santificar el Día del Señor asistiendo a Misa en persona de manera segura o participando con reverencia en la Misa a través de Internet u otros medios. Además de las oportunidades para unirnos al Sacrificio de la Misa, santifiquen todo el día con oración, convivencia familiar y obras de misericordia. Los católicos en la Diócesis de Sacramento todavía están dispensados de la obligación dominical de asistir al Sacrificio de la Misa en persona.
Para promover su salud de cada uno y la de toda la comunidad, animo a todos a vacunarse cuando sea posible. Su médico puede responder a cualquier pregunta relacionada con una inquietud sobre la salud personal. Mis colaboradores y yo hemos formulado una lista de preguntas frecuentes para responder a cualquier inquietud moral: https://www.scd.org/news/covid-faq#sp
Abramos nuestro corazón para recibir la Eucaristía con mayor piedad y caridad. Nuestras comunidades ya han sufrido mucho durante esta pandemia. Ruego a Dios para que la próxima temporada de Cuaresma y sus prácticas penitenciales también brinden oportunidades para ser transformados por este peregrinaje de la muerte a la vida, de la oscuridad a la luz, del pecado a la gracia con nuestro Señor Jesús.
Que las intercesiones de nuestra Santísima Madre María y San José se unan a nuestras oraciones para que la misericordia de Dios ponga fin a la pandemia, traiga la sanación a todos los afligidos, protección y perseverancia a quienes los cuidan y consuelo a quienes lloran la muerte de seres queridos.
Obispo de Sacramento
Message to the Faithful from Bishop Jaime Soto - Coming Back to the Table
May 29, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ:
The Catholic community in the Diocese of Sacramento will be able to celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, around the sacred altars of their parish churches on Sunday, June 14th.
I am lifting the heartbreaking suspension of public celebrations of the Sacrifice of the Mass starting on Monday, June 8th. This will help pastors ready the churches for the glorious Feast of Corpus Christi. Parishes that are prepared to implement all the necessary public health protocols may begin offering Mass with the Faithful on June 8th.
My brother priests and I are taking all the steps to ensure the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated in a manner that gives peace of mind to all our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus.
The public guidelines I recently shared for resuming public celebrations of the Mass have been updated to reflect our continued work with public health officials. These guidelines are available on the diocesan website. These guidelines include limiting attendance to the lower of either 25% of church capacity or a maximum of 100 congregants. Pastors will also make these guidelines available to their parishioners. Please consult with your local parish to confirm the schedule of Masses and other directives intended to provide a safe environment for everyone in the church assembly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not ended but conditions have improved sufficiently so that we can begin to offer the Mass and other sacraments in a cautious and responsible manner. It is still necessary to maintain physical-distancing. The wearing of masks in church is strongly recommended. Those who are 65 years of age and older should remain at home. Those with a vulnerable health condition should also continue to stay in their homes. To continue to protect the most vulnerable among us, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still in effect. If you feel sick or have any flu-like symptoms, do not come to Church. Stay home. Again, please consult the diocesan website or your parish for more information on how to be safe and protect one another from the coronavirus contagion.
With these new guidelines in place, we are still not able to come back to the table as in the past. As we adapt to these changes, we are all called to greater charity and understanding during this transition. Our continued vigilance respects those who are afflicted and honors those who risk their own lives in caring for them. The patient efforts each of us makes are an act of Christian solidarity that will strengthen the whole Body of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus has been the Good Shepherd throughout the Lenten and Easter Seasons. He has also been our wise, good Teacher instructing us through the sacrifices we have endured. These tribulations will continue for many of us. Our sharing in the Lord’s passion has offered a communion in the Lord’s saving death.
As we prepare to approach the Lord’s altar of sacrifice, may you know His consoling mercy and His encouraging grace. This Pentecost Sunday, we will continue to gather behind the closed doors as did the first disciples. The Blessed Mother Mary was in their company as they prayed. She will certainly be with each of you and your families. Pray with her as she intercedes for all of us. Her example teaches us to be open to the Spirit’s promptings even in these uncertain days. The Holy Spirit will help us to welcome the Lord Jesus with open hands and hearts as the Feast of Corpus Christi draws closer.
Be assured that Bishop Weigand, my brother priests and I continue to offer our Masses and pray for all of you so that soon we may taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Bishop of Sacramento
Download the PDF Guide
Mensaje a los Fieles del Mons. Jaime Soto - Volviendo al Altar
29 de mayo de 2020
Queridos Amigos en Cristo:
La comunidad católica en la Diócesis de Sacramento podrá celebrar la Fiesta del Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo, Corpus Christi, alrededor de los altares sagrados de sus templos parroquiales el domingo 14 de junio.
Estoy levantando la dolorosa suspensión de las celebraciones públicas del Sacrificio de la Misa a partir del lunes, 8 de junio. Esto ayudará a los sacerdotes a preparar las iglesias para la gloriosa Fiesta del Corpus Christi. Las parroquias que están preparadas para implementar todos los protocolos de salud pública necesarios pueden comenzar a ofrecer misa con los fieles el 8 de junio.
Mis hermanos sacerdotes y yo estamos dando todos los pasos para asegurar que la Fiesta del Corpus Christi se celebre de una manera que brinde tranquilidad a todos nuestros hermanos y hermanas en el Señor Jesús.
Las guías públicas que compartí recientemente para resumir las celebraciones públicas de la Misa se han actualizado para reflejar nuestro trabajo continuo con los funcionarios de salud pública. Estas guías están disponibles en el sitio web diocesano. Estas guías incluyen limitar la asistencia al menor de dos opciones: 25% de la capacidad de la iglesia o un máximo de 100 congregantes. Los sacerdotes también pondrán estas guías a disposición de sus feligreses. Consulte con su parroquia local para confirmar el horario de misas y otras directivas destinadas a proporcionar un ambiente seguro para todos en la asamblea del templo.
La pandemia de COVID-19 no ha terminado, pero las condiciones han mejorado lo suficiente como para que podamos comenzar a ofrecer la Misa y otros sacramentos de una manera prudente y responsable. Todavía es necesario mantener el distanciamiento social. Se recomienda usar mascarillas en la iglesia. Los mayores de 65 años deben quedarse en casa. Aquellos con una condición de salud vulnerable también deben continuar en sus hogares. Para mejor asegurar la protección a los más vulnerables entre nosotros, la dispensa de la obligación de asistir a la misa dominical aún está vigente. Si se siente enfermo o tiene síntomas similares a los de la gripe, no venga a la Iglesia. Permanezcan en casa. Una vez más, consulte el sitio web diocesano o su parroquia para obtener más información sobre cómo estar seguros y protegerse mutuamente del contagio del coronavirus.
Con estas nuevas guías establecidas, todavía no podemos volver a la mesa como en el pasado. A medida que nos adaptamos a estos cambios, todos estamos llamados a una mayor caridad y comprensión durante esta transición. Nuestra vigilancia continuada respeta a los afligidos y honra a quienes arriesgan sus propias vidas al cuidarlos. Los esfuerzos que cada uno de nosotros hacemos son un acto de solidaridad cristiana que fortalecerá todo el Cuerpo de Cristo.
Nuestro Señor Jesús ha sido el Buen Pastor durante las temporadas de Cuaresma y Pascua. Él también ha sido nuestro sabio y buen Maestro al instruirnos a través de los sacrificios que hemos soportado. Estas tribulaciones continuarán para muchos de nosotros. Nuestra participación en la pasión del Señor ha ofrecido una comunión en la muerte salvadora del Señor.
Mientras nos preparamos para acercarnos al altar del sacrificio del Señor, ojalá que conozcan Su misericordia consoladora y Su gracia alentadora. Este domingo de Pentecostés, seguimos reuniéndonos a puerta cerrada como lo hicieron los primeros discípulos. La Santísima Madre María estuvo presente acompañándolos mientras rezaban. Ella seguramente estará con cada uno de ustedes y sus familias. Oren con ella mientras ella intercede por todos nosotros. Su ejemplo nos enseña a estar dóciles a los impulsos del Espíritu, incluso en estos días inciertos. El Espíritu Santo nos ayudará a recibir al Señor Jesús con las manos y los corazones abiertos a medida que se acerca la Fiesta del Corpus Christi.
Tengan la seguridad de que el Mons. Weigand, mis hermanos sacerdotes y este servidor continuamos ofreciendo nuestras misas y orando por todos ustedes para que pronto podamos saborear y ver la bondad del Señor.
Obispo de Sacramento
Vea la guía en PDF
My Dear Friends in Christ:
The Lord God has awakened us to conversion during this Lenten Season as we more closely unite ourselves with our neighbors in California and around the world responding to the alarming pandemic of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
The decision to suspend public celebrations of the Mass, along with the other necessary public health precautions, does not suspend the evangelical urgency of repentance and renewal during this Lenten Season. We are particularly called to give witness to personal repentance and renewal for the sake of our own salvation and the redemption of the world.
The outbreak has disrupted some of the habitual Lenten approaches and attitudes forcing us to re-examine our individual and ecclesial disposition to this Sacred Season. Our common baptism is a share in the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus. St. Paul reminds all the baptized in his letter to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1.24) Though the public celebration of Mass is suspended, all the disciples of the Lord Jesus need “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12.1) These words of Pauline wisdom should direct our personal and pastoral conduct during this difficult public health emergency so that the Lord’s healing mercy may continue to bear fruit in our personal lives and the life of the Church in Sacramento.
This public health emergency should make us reconsider the kind of prayer, fasting, abstinence, and charity needed for ourselves as well as the Church. God’s mysterious providence is working in the midst of the confusion among political leaders and public health officials. Though this moment may not be how we imagine Lent, heed the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6.2) Let us practice the evangelical qualities of patience, prudence, gratitude, and joy. Pray that the Lord may grant us the clarity of faith to see the wise and merciful hands of the divine potter tenderly molding us into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus.
May our Blessed Mother Mary stand together with us in the shadow of her Son’s cross so that we might come to know the joy of His glorious resurrection. May her tender intercession bring healing to all who are afflicted, eternal rest to those who have died, and comfort to all those who mourn. May her maternal affection cause us not to lose hope but to hunger more deeply for the Bread of Life and thirst more longingly for the Chalice of Salvation.
Bishop of Sacramento
With a heavy heart, conscious of the accelerating rates of coronavirus infection, also known as COVID-19, I am suspending the public celebration of Sunday and weekday Masses for the Diocese of Sacramento in California until further notice.
This pastoral directive cooperates with the increased public health precautions issued by local, state, and federal officials in order to protect vulnerable populations from contact with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
As with the previous pastoral decrees issued on March 11, 2020 and March 13, 2020, this decree is especially intended to benefit those members of the Faithful who are sixty years of age and older as well as those with vulnerable health conditions.
The dispensation to all members of the Catholic Faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday will also continue until further notice.
Parish churches will maintain the regular hours, especially on Sundays, to be open for private prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Priests are to privately offer Sunday Mass pro populo (for the people) and encouraged to daily offer Mass imploring the Lord’s mercy.
Priests are to provide scheduled times for individual confessions. Where possible the schedule should be expanded. Priests should continue the laudable tradition of being available for confession and the anointing of the sick upon request.
Weddings and Funerals may be provided but should be limited to immediate family.
Further directives and guidance will be provided to priests and deacons for the prudent and practical celebration of sacraments during this public health emergency.
It is recommended that Communal Baptisms be suspended until further notice. Pastors should exercise prudential judgment regarding individual pastoral cases.
I remind the Catholic Faithful to properly observe the third commandment, Keep Holy the Lord’s Day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest.” (CCC, 2185)
I encourage the faithful to offer a rosary on Sundays for the intention of all those afflicted by the virus, COVID-19 as well as for the sanctification of the Faithful and Clergy during this Lenten Season. I recommend a family recitation of the rosary as a healthy and holy practice during Lent as well as throughout the year.
All the Faithful should seek with greater intention to consecrate Sunday, the Lord’s Day, with prayer and attention given to building up the family. Other pastoral and spiritual resources will be made available to assist in keeping holy Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Please refer to the Diocesan website, the local parish website, or make use of My Parish app.
I instruct the pastors of parishes in the Diocese to educate the faithful about this directive as well as other public health precautions to be observed in their parishes at this time.
Please pray for those afflicted with COVID-19, their families, and all caregivers. May the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary bring us the healing mercy and grace of her Son, Jesus.
Given at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Sacramento on this seventeenth day of March, in the year of the Our Lord, two thousand twenty.
Bishop of Sacramento