The COVID pandemic has prompted the Roman Catholic Church to schedule additional Christmas Eve masses this year, and 3 p.m. Christmas Eve services will be allowed for the first time ever in Missouri.
Diocese of Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight, who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2017, says the early Christmas Eve masses are the most popular ones of the year.
“We are stepping things up in order to provide even multiple opportunities for mass perhaps even in the same parish. Having more than one mass going at the same time,” Bishop McKnight says.
The Diocese of Jefferson City has 110 parishes in 38 counties in central, west-central and northeast Missouri. The diocese includes Jefferson City, Columbia, Boonville, Hannibal, Moberly, Marshall, Rolla and Sedalia.
Columbia’s Our Lady of Lourdes church, the largest parish in the diocese, is offering two separate 3 pm and 5 pm masses on Christmas Eve.
Some of the other larger parishes in the state have similar plans. Assumption Parish in eastern Missouri’s O’Fallon plans a 4 p.m. Christmas Eve mass in the church and a 4:15 p.m. mass in the chapel.
“The more opportunities that we have available, then the greater allowances for social distancing,” says McKnight.
Bishop McKnight has asked every available priest in his diocese to celebrate a 3 p.m. Christmas Eve mass. He says it’s about safety during the pandemic.
“It was a recommendation of the priest council of the diocese to me several months ago that we move up the time period for Christmas vigil masses,” McKnight says. “Normally, it’s at 4 o’clock, the earliest mass that can take place before a holy day.”
Masks and social distancing are required at all masses in Missouri, and the bishops in all four dioceses have given Catholics dispensation from mass obligations until further notice. That’s due to the pandemic.
Bishop McKnight says divine law still requires Catholics to pray the rosary, read scripture or watch a live-streamed mass, if they’re unable to attend mass in-person.
He’ll celebrate a Christmas Eve mass at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s interview with Diocese of Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight, which was recorded on December 17, 2020:
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