As some German dioceses have begun to re-allow public church services, the bishops’ conference has issued detailed guidelines for the celebration of the liturgy.
Because Germany is a federal republic, the guidelines are only general recommendations, as the final decision rests with the governors and diocesan bishops of each individual state and diocese.
Should the state regulations change in the coming months, the recommendations will be added to or revised.
In cathedrals and other suitably large churches, Sunday Mass, Services of the Word and weekday Masses will be celebrated.
Face masks must be worn and the number of people allowed to attend services depends on the size of the church.
The number will be limited as a distance of 1.5m between each person must be kept to. Aisles will be made one way and marked as such in order to prevent people bumping into each other. The faithful must enter through one door and leave through another.
Seating will be marked so that the necessary distancing is kept to, but families may sit together. Security staff will help people to keep to the regulations.
Besides the priest, only a maximum of two altar servers, one lector, one cantor, and the organist may participate.
The sexton, wearing a mask, should carefully clean the chalice, the paten and the water and wine vessels, and then dry them with paper towels. Disposable gloves should be worn when filling the paten with hosts.
Priests and deacons should disinfect their hands before preparing the gifts. The gifts should already be on the altar or close to it before Mass begins and must only be touched by priests or deacons and not by altar servers.
The appropriate distance between the priest and the communicant must be kept to when communion is distributed. Using different coloured floor markings is possibly helpful.
Neither the priest nor the communicant will speak when communion is received. The priest will not say “The Body of Christ” and the communicant will not respond with “Amen”. Priests should use an instrument to distribute the host or they should wear disposable gloves.
The sign of peace should be dispensed with. Communicants will not receive the chalice. Holy-water fonts are to remain empty. Collection baskets should be placed at the church entrance and not handed round in the pews. And the faithful are asked to bring their own Missals if possible.
Among more general recommendations, funeral services may now be held in church as long as the number of people attending is in accordance with the size of the church; Baptisms, First Communion celebrations, Confirmations, Marriages and the Sacrament of Holy Orders should all be postponed; and pilgrimages and pilgrimage Masses for large groups of people remain suspended.
Where possible, the number of Masses and Services of the Word will be increased.The possibility of holding open-air Masses should be made use of as often as possible in the coming summer months with seats provided for the elderly. And Catholics continue to have a dispensation from attending Sunday Mass.