Podcast with the Bishop: Mass in the pandemic

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula poses for a photo during a Catholic Messenger Conversations podcast Aug. 26 at St. Ambrose University’s KALA studios in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Bishop Thomas Zinkula said he sees and hears of a “lot of creative things happening out there,” referring to the celebration of Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous parishes celebrate Mass in their parking lots in seasonable weather, incorporating low frequency radio, loud speakers or live streaming to share the Good News

indoors and outdoors, the bishop said in a podcast for Catholic Messenger Conversations.
Nearly six months have passed since COVID-19 disrupted the routines of the faithful in the Diocese of Davenport and across the nation. More than two months after the resumption of public celebration of the Mass, with precautions in place to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus, parishes are still negotiating “the new normal” in their liturgies.

Bishop Zinkula chose to focus the podcast on how Mass is being celebrated while people practice social distancing, scrupulous sanitation and other safety protocols, such as wearing masks and refraining from singing. “People are feeling more comfortable at Mass than anywhere else because of the precautions,” he said.


When asked about the wearing of face masks, he quipped, “I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but it’s kind of controversial these days.” However, he quickly followed up with a serious message: “We really strongly encourage people to wear masks. … Some pastors are mandating it on their own.” He follows the CDC recommendation to wear a face mask, including when he is at the altar. Mask wearing is “not only for your own sake, but for everybody’s sake,” he said.

Singing is another issue on which he has received plenty of feedback. He has heard about it from priests during virtual deanery meetings and from lay people and musicians. “There are people wanting to relax (the ban on singing). Studies show that when you sing, you’re really projecting,” he said. Some have asked about allowing a cantor to sing. “That’s not the role of cantors to sing for us.”

Instrumental music, on the other hand, is acceptable provided it does not prolong the length of the Mass, which should be 30 minutes for the protection of the people gathered, he said. Homilists who tend to run long need to shorten their homilies, he said, including him. The bishop said he is not so concerned about an outdoor Mass running over 30 minutes — unless people are close together for a long period.

Bishop Zinkula also talked about distribution of Communion, and who is attending Mass and who is not. “We’re going to have to work really hard to bring people back when that time comes,” he said. However, with COVID-19 cases escalating, “now is not the time.”

Listen to this and other Catholic Messenger Conversations podcasts on The Catholic Messenger’s website, http://www.catholicmessenger.net/podcasting/ or find “Catholic Messenger Conversations” on your favorite podcasting app.

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