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Coronavirus Updates

Coronavirus Update: Bishop Thomas' Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Las Vegas

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March 18, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ,

People across the entire globe have been plunged into a world of hardship and uncertainty as the coronavirus continues to take its toll in every nation.

As individuals and families, we are facing the specter of critical illness, certain economic hardship, and the massive disruption of our daily lives.

The Church is no stranger to adversity, suffering, or privation.

In times of difficulty, she has always raised her voice in prayer and earnest supplication, confident that God will hear our every prayer and answer all our pleas.

Down through the centuries, the Blessed Mother has played a vitally important role in times of trial, coming to us as a tender Mother, a tireless advocate, steadfast Intercessor, and cherished friend.

She has visited her people under the familiar titles of Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Antipolo, and Our Lady of La Vang.

She is beloved in Poland as Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Ireland as Our Lady of Knock, and in Japan as Our Lady of Akita.

Mary is revered by the people in Bosnia–Herzegovina as Our Lady of Medugorje, and in Spain, she is treasured as Our Lady of the Pillar. Mary is known in France as Our Lady of Lourdes, and in Portugal as Our Lady of Fatima.

On May 13, 1846, the Bishops of the United States unanimously chose the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Patroness of our Nation. Their decision was ratified by Pope Pius IX on February 7 of the following year.

Now is the hour to turn to our Blessed Mother for her maternal help. She is always ready and willing to carry our prayers and petitions to the heart of her Son.

Mary’s own words, contained in the Gospel of St. Luke, capture the special place that she holds in salvation history as the advocate and friend of God’s holy people. The Scripture says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”

I ask you, the people of the Diocese of Las Vegas, to turn to the Blessed Mother, who helps us keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on her Son Jesus during dark and trying days.

The words of a powerful prayer called the Memorare, and attributed to St. Bernard, assure us that when we turn to Mary in times of need we have this blessed assurance -- that never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided.

When our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, she posed to him a question that is intended also for you and me. Mary asked Juan Diego, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”

Her question is a not-so-subtle assurance that Mary is our Mother too, standing ready and willing to protect and defend us, her children, in times of trouble and uncertainty.

I ask you, the people of the Diocese of Las Vegas, to bring your troubles to Mary. Give her your burdens, your worries. Share with her your cares and concerns. Be assured that under her maternal mantle, prayers are answered and miracles still happen.

Mary will not forsake her children in their hour of need, nor will she neglect our prayers in times of difficulty and distress.

In the days ahead, I ask you to consider praying the Rosary as a family, and ask parents and grandparents to teach your children about the healing power of Mary’s maternal care.

I ask all parishioners to pray the beautiful Memorare at the close of each day, directing your prayer toward those who are sick and suffering, those who have died, for healthcare workers and researchers, and for civic leaders, who are under particular duress during these trying days.

I ask you to invite Mary our Mother into your hearts and homes, and to venerate her as your loving Mother, as one who will lead you and your families closer to the heart of her Son.

Each Sunday, I ask you to consider reading the Sunday readings as a family, allowing the living Word of God to draw you into the heart of the Word made Flesh.

Finally, I commend our entire Diocese to the maternal care of Mary, entreating her to “pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,” and protect our people with grace, peace, and temporal relief.

I close this reflection with the consoling words of St. Francis De Sales, who had deep devotion to Our Lady, and unfailing faith in God’s Provident care. He wrote, “Do not fear what will happen tomorrow. The same loving God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or will give you the unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Be certain of my daily prayers and blessings.

Bishop George Leo Thomas, Ph.D. ?
Bishop of Las Vegas


Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) Update: Bishop Thomas suspends all public celebration of Mass in the Diocese of Las Vegas

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March 16, 2020

My Dear Friends in Christ,

During the past few weeks, we have been carefully monitoring the health advisories and protocols issued by the Centers for Disease Control, the Southern Nevada Health District, and by Governor Steve Sisolak’s office regarding the measures needed to mitigate the Coronavirus.

In recent days, each agency has underscored the import and impact of “social distancing” as an indispensable element required to allay the impact of this global pandemic.

To that end, I have made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass across the Diocese of Las Vegas, at least through the weekend of Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020) or until further notice. This includes the suspension of all Church services, parish meetings, and religious education classes, effective immediately.

As I stated in earlier correspondence, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the life of the Church and the Church’s most priceless treasure. The decision to suspend public celebration of Mass must be driven by grave and unprecedented circumstances and can never be taken lightly. These are the conditions in which we find ourselves today.

I ask that wherever possible, Pastors provide livestream access to the celebration of weekend Liturgy, and that as a Diocese, we pray in solidarity that this crisis will not only be abated, but also serve to draw everyone closer to the heart of Christ, the Divine Physician.

By pastoral necessity, I am allowing both funerals and scheduled weddings to take place, asking Pastors to help ensure gatherings during these key moments in the lives of the people be limited in size (preferably 250 people maximum) in order to protect the health and wellbeing of the assembly.

I am also giving Pastors the option of keeping their parish Churches open for reasonable hours each day so that individual parishioners will have the opportunity for private devotional prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. It is essential to remember the importance of our prayers for one another, our civic leaders, and health care providers at this time.

I have included with this communique a copy of a prayer which we can offer throughout our Diocese asking God’s blessings upon individuals and families already suffering from this disease, and special blessings upon health care providers as they minister to the sick and suffering in our community.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that these efforts, combined with your understanding and full cooperation, will aide in the reduction of this aggressive disease, and serve to alleviate its impact in our local community.

Asking God’s abundant blessings upon each of you, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend George Leo Thomas, Ph.D.
Bishop of Las Vegas

See attachments


Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) Update: Bishop Thomas grants dispensation from attending Mass

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March 13, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are living in a time of considerable uncertainty as the Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) continues to cause illness and death across the global community.

Health officials are advising that this virus continues to spread through person-toperson contact, affecting most especially the elderly and medically vulnerable members of our community.

In light of the danger and uncertainty of this serious emergency, and in consultation with Chancery officials and pastoral leaders, I am authorizing precautionary measures related to the celebration of the Eucharist in the parishes in the Diocese of Las Vegas. These measures are taken to mitigate the spread of this illness in our local community.

Because of this grave and unprecedented moment, I hereby dispense all Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Las Vegas and those Catholics visiting within the geographic boundaries of our Diocese, from the obligation of attending Sunday Masses for the weekends of March 14-15, March 21-22, and March 28-29. This dispensation will be revisited as further medical information becomes available through our local and national health authorities.

I encourage those of you who cannot come to Mass to stay home and read the Gospels (these can be found at (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031320.cfm), pray with your families, and to join yourself to the sacrifice of the Mass by making an act of spiritual communion. I also encourage all the faithful that cannot come to Holy Mass to participate via the internet or on television. The Diocese of Las Vegas offers a televised Mass each Sunday at 7:30 am on KFBT-TV (Cox Channel 6). Holy Spirit Parish livestreams the 12:30 pm Sunday Mass (https://holyspiritchurch.org/live-stream-mass/). There are also multiple Masses available online, some can be found at facebook.com/lacatholics/, www.ewtn.com/tv/watch-live, and mass-online.org/daily-holy-mass-live-online/.

It is important to be reminded that the celebration of the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the life of the Church, and the obligation to participate is dispensed only for grave cause. I believe that the present circumstances meet that criteria.

At this time I am asking Pastors to continue with the regularly scheduled Masses, exercising the precautionary measures that we have already addressed in prior correspondence (see attached). Decisions regarding religious education classes and retreats will be made at the parish level on a case-by-case basis.

Given the seriousness of this health emergency, I am asking you to include prayers of the faithful, asking our Lord and His Blessed Mother to protect and bless our families, parishioners, and residents of this Diocese from harm and illness. I am asking Pastors and Administrators to include in the prayers of the faithful for these weeks the intentions suggested by the USCCB (see attached).

We ask special blessings on those whose families are suffering from the loss of a loved one, and special blessings on physicians, nurses, and heath care providers, public health officials and civic leaders.

Please be certain of my prayerful support throughout these difficult days, I remain,

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. George L. Thomas, Ph.D.
Bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas


 

February 27, 2020

Dear Pastors and Administrators,

Since the worldwide outbreak of the Corona Virus, we have received a number of inquiries concerning reception of Communion from the Cup and the exchange of the Sign of Peace during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

After reviewing information made available to us by both national and regional health district officials, and in consultation with the USCCB, I have decided to introduce the following precautionary measures:

• Suspending the distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful via the chalice;
• Suspending the exchange of peace (or instructing that it be exchanged without physical contact).

While there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Clark County or within our State at this time, there is widespread focus on preventive measures recommended by health officials to stem the potential spread of this highly communicable virus.

In the past, we have dealt with issues related to the prevention and spread of other communicable diseases by recommending common sense measures that help to inhibit the transmission of respiratory and saliva borne illnesses.

Fundamentals that always apply:

• urging priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion;
• assuring the faithful that if they are sick or are experiencing symptoms of sickness they are not obliged to attend Mass, and even recommend that out of charity they ought not to attend.

We will monitor information provided by officials from the Southern Nevada Health District and the CDC and make changes based on recommendations from the health care community.

I appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

With warm personal regards, I remain

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. George L. Thomas, Ph.D.
Bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas

USCCB offers petitions to be included during the capital Prayers of the Faithful, click HERE.

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