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AFP
March 22, 2020

With churches closing, US priest offers drive-thru confessions

World

AFP
March 22, 2020

BOWIE, UNITED STATES: The United States has long loved its drive-ins and drive-throughs: for movies, fast food, pharmacies and banking. Now the coronavirus pandemic has added a new one: Catholic confessions.

With his church closed due to the outbreak, Scott Holmer turned to the tried-and-tested method in this nation of car-lovers.

Every day except Sunday, and if the weather permits, he sits on a wooden chair in his priestly robes in the parking lot outside his Maryland chapel and does a contact-free confession and blessing. Two lines of traffic cones and a sign guide cars outside St Edwards Church in Bowie, a small town around 20 miles (30 kilometers) outside of Washington.

The drivers lower their windows and confess their sins to Father Holmer who, after a few words of encouragement to return to the path of the Lord, grants absolution. Despite the drive-through’s all-American pedigree, Father Holmer came up with the idea last week after seeing South Korea organize drive-through tests for the coronavirus. “The diocese canceled all masses to tamp down the spread of the infection. But the decision about confession was kind of up in the air,” he told AFP.

“So I said, I’ll just get in the parking lot, and that way I can avoid getting it myself and people can avoid any transmission. It’s more open air, so there’s like air flow and all that good stuff.”

Holmer takes care to keep a safe distance from his flock and asks parishioners to stay in their vehicles. With couples or families, each person takes their turn sitting in the driver’s seat. For those wishing an anonymous confession, the priest covers his eyes with a bandana.