March 18, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 As you are aware, because of the fluid and unprecedented nature of the   Coronavirus crisis, our response to the threat posed by the COVID-19   outbreak in the United States has been to closely monitor the guidance of   government leaders and public health officials, and to make appropriate   and necessary decisions for the overall well-being of the faithful of the   Diocese of St. Petersburg.

     Now that guidance has been given to further limit gatherings, and out of   deep pastoral concern for the most vulnerable among us, after prayer and   discernment, effective immediately, I have decided to suspend the public   celebration of Masses in the Diocese of St. Petersburg until it can be   determined that it is safe to return to normal schedules and public   worship. Therefore, the faithful of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and all   visitors present in this diocese are dispensed from the obligation to attend   Sunday Mass for as long as the suspension of public celebration of the   Mass is in effect.

    In addition, I have directed our parishes to postpone Confirmations,   public penance services, parish and social events, and ministry gatherings   (unless they are determined to be essential by the local pastor i.e.   charitable ministries to those in need)

 Together with your pastors and priests, I encourage the Catholic Faithful to   make prudent decisions about Weddings and Funerals during this time,   and to limit participation to immediate family members, in keeping with   the guidance on public gatherings. Baptisms are to be celebrated in cases   of emergency only. 

    I have asked our pastors to keep our churches open for private prayer   and devotion, and to make every effort to keep the faith life of our parishes   alive by creative means which are adapted to the current circumstances. I i   invite you to visit our Diocesan website for updates and for opportunities   to view or listen to the celebration of the Mass. Along with our parishes, we   will provide other opportunities to remain in spiritual solidarity during this   period. Remember that Christ abides with us, and we can always be united   in spirit and in prayer. 


    As your Bishop, I wish to thank you for your generous support of our   parishes, the Diocese and Catholic Charities. I also ask you to continue   your generosity, in light of your personal circumstances, so that our Church   is able to continue its ministries and to serve the poor during this time of   crisis.

     During this time, I entrust the faithful of our Diocese to the loving   intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that by the grace of her Son we will   be strong and courageous as we face the current challenges together.

 May God bless you!

 Most Reverend Gregory L. Parkes
 Bishop of St. Petersburg