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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Instead of locking laity out of churches during the pandemic, a Tennessee bishop is calling them to join their priests in daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Knoxville's Bp. Richard Stika is asking parishes to conduct eucharistic adoration each day and wants laity in on it. The prayer intentions are for those who provide essential services during the current Wuhan virus pandemic.
Bishop Stika took to social media on Tuesday, saying: "Grateful to all those who stop into our churches to pray. I have asked all parishes to have adoration throughout the day."
"And remember to pray for those who help us so we may live! And pray for the pope who leads us in daily prayer," he exhorted.
Stika added that canceling public Mass "was the most difficult decision" he's ever made as bishop.
On March 20, Stika suspended all public Masses in the diocese of Knoxville. At that time, he closed all small adoration chapels, as well. In his announcement, Stika explained he still wanted adoration to occur, but in larger churches where people are able to practice social distancing.
The bishop's Tuesday message was meant to encourage laity to start attending eucharistic adoration in parishes throughout the day and to express gratitude for those who are already doing so.
Having laity join in with eucharistic adoration inside parishes is a rarity during the Wuhan virus pandemic that's infected nearly 190 thousand U.S. victims and killed more than 4,000 others.
In contrast, Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas will be conducting a eucharistic procession outside his cathedral on Wednesday at 3 p.m. but wants laity to remain in their cars.
Strickland, who has been a big proponent of eucharistic adoration as a way of combating the pandemic, on Wednesday tweeted that at the Mercy Hour, "I will process around the cathedral in Tyler with Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. ... You can drive by or park and receive His blessing, you are welcome but please stay in your car."
And chancery officials in the diocese of Philadelphia are apologizing for parishioners who are joining priests at their private Masses. At the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes and likewise at St. Barnabas, parishioners are not only attending private Masses but also receiving Holy Communion at those Masses.
Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Fr. Michael Rock told a local reporter on Monday that he won't lock out the laity who come to his church.
"I'm not locking the church," said Rock. "I'm leaving it open all day for people to come if they want to come. The majority of people are staying home. And the people who are coming, well, they're being safe about it and so are we."
When contacted by the reporter from PhillyMag, a diocesan official quickly apologized for parishioners who are entering churches in the diocese.
Father Gerald Dennis Gill, director of the Philadelphia's Office of Divine Worship responded, "I can't explain what's going on at Lourdes or Barnabas. This is definitely contrary to our directives."
Gill added, "There aren't supposed to be any gatherings. That is the fundamental point of these precautions, and we are trying to abide by that. I am sorry for these transgressions by these churches."