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The world has lived through an extraordinarily painful and difficult eighteen months. There is no one living who has not been adversely affected in some way by the illness and death wrought by the COVID pandemic and the economic collapse and psychological turmoil it has left in its wake.
But, as bad as the pandemic is, it proved to be a learning experience for our Church in the United States. We were compelled to develop innovative methods of witnessing to Christ in the world. We quickly adapted to the new and unprecedented new reality and soon almost every parish had the ability of live-streaming liturgical services and conducting meetings and catechetical sessions remotely.
These modern technologies were life-savers, but they could never replace being with each other, in person, in community. Truly, how much have we missed praying together and sharing fellowship as a parish community in our beloved parish churches! How much have our hearts yearned for the consolation of the Holy Mysteries and especially the presence of our Eucharistic Lord in our souls!
Now, however, through the grace of God, and the efforts of zealous doctors and researchers, it appears the pandemic is waning and the time of healing, rebuilding and renewal has begun. Now, finally, the day has come for us to return to church, to the House of the Lord, that tiny slice of heaven on earth.
In most of the jurisdictions in which our churches are located in the United States, the COVID restrictions regarding public gatherings, social distancing and mask wearing have been eased or removed altogether. We, your bishops, therefore, invite all of you, our faithful, to see this as a sign to return to your parish churches and, along with your pastors, renew the liturgical, sacramental and community life that has been lacking for over a year and is the center of our lives. We urge everyone to return, but, at the same time, to be prudent and continue to employ the normal means of keeping your churches sanitized and safe.
In particular, we are grateful to those of you who, despite your own hardships, continued to offer the same and even more financial support to your individual parishes during this time, especially since the usual means of parish fund-raising were not possible. By this you have demonstrated how much you love your parish church and your Faith.
As regards the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, we advise the pastors, for the time being, to continue the practice of distribution that each of you has established during the time of the pandemic. At some point in the near future we will revisit the issue and offer a concise directive.
May the words of joy and trust in the Lord expressed by the psalmist be a reflection of our own joy as we return to our beloved sanctuaries: “Only goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps. 23:6)
May the blessings of God be with you,