Visiting the Basilica: What You Need to Know

The coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges to us all. While a visit to the Basilica looks different now than it has in the past, don’t let coronavirus stop you from coming to Mary’s Shrine! Here is what you need to know about visiting the Basilica during this unusual time.

Cleaning Procedures

The Great Upper Church is thoroughly sanitized after each Mass. Basilica housekeeping staff are stationed in the Great Upper Church, the Crypt Church, and Memorial Hall. These staff members watch and clean spaces as they become vacated.

Face Coverings

Visitors will receive a temperature screening upon arrival to the Basilica

Face coverings must be worn at all times while inside the Basilica and must cover your nose and mouth, except when receiving Holy Communion.

Entering the Basilica

Please enter at the front lower level east entrance of the Basilica. You will receive a temperature screening by Basilica staff; individuals with a body temperature of 100.3 or higher will not be admitted, in accordance with CDC guidelines. If you are exhibiting symptoms of illness, we request that you stay home; you will not be permitted to enter the Basilica. Upon entering the Basilica, you will be given hand sanitizer and will be asked to provide your name and telephone number to Basilica staff for 30-day retention, as requested by the District of Columbia Health Department for contact tracing. 

Mass Schedule and Procedure

Our Mass schedule is less frequent than in the past in order to accommodate time for thorough cleaning of the Great Upper Church. Monday through Saturday Mass is celebrated twice daily, at 8:00 a.m. and 12:10 p.m., while on Sundays, Mass is celebrated at 9:00 a.m. 12:00 noon, 2:30 p.m. (en español), and 4:30 p.m. All Masses will be celebrated in the Great Upper Church to allow for maximum occupancy with social distancing requirements.

Please arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time of Daily Mass and no later than 1 hour prior to the scheduled time of Sunday Mass to ensure ample time for entry into the Basilica, as well as escort and seating in the Great Upper Church.

Please note that due to current DC Health Department restrictions, no more than 250 people are allowed to attend Mass in person. Though we wish we could accommodate all of those who wish to attend, any visitors who arrive after 250 people have been admitted will not be able to enter. Registration is required to attend Sunday Mass in person due to restrictions placed upon Houses of Worship by the District of Columbia which now limit the number of attendees to 250 persons per service. Register at

Visitors must sit in marked pews to ensure social distancing. Seating for families is available.

Immediately following each Mass, Mass attendees must exit the Great Upper Church through the East Side doors as directed. Re-entry will only be allowed through the front lower level East Entrance of the Basilica, following the same entry protocol.

Holy Communion

Masks must be worn at all times, except when receiving communion

Holy Communion is taken under one species. When it is time to receive Communion, please follow all directions from Basilica staff in order to streamline the process and keep it safe for all participants.

You will proceed to the altar in single file, while observing social distancing. If you would like to receive Holy Communion in the hand, upon approaching the priest, extend the hands with the right hand under the left as the Sacred Host is received. Then step to the side and receive the Sacred Host carefully and reverently. Holy Communion may also be received directly on the tongue. Return to your pew while continuing to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.


Confessions are available Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in the Transept Chapels of the Great Upper Church (Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and Mary, Queen of All Hearts).  There are currently no Confessions on Sundays.

Face coverings must be worn at all times during Confession.

As before, penitents have the option to confess anonymously or face-to-face.

Private Prayer

For those desiring private prayer, the Crypt Church of the Basilica is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Private prayer in the Crypt Church will be limited to 30 minutes to allow others the opportunity to enter and pray.

Candle Lighting

Visitors may have candles lit in Memorial Hall by Basilica staff who are stationed there to assist. 

Cafeteria, Tours, and Photography

Please keep in mind that our cafeteria is currently closed, and that guided tours and audio tours are not offered at this time. Likewise, we are unable to allow visitors to tour the Basilica on their own or stop to take photos.  All chapels of the Upper Church and Crypt level are closed. The Great Upper Church is reserved for Mass and Confession only, and the Crypt Church is reserved for private prayer only. 

Gift Shop and Bookstore

The Gift Shop and Bookstore are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please wear a face covering and follow social distancing guidelines.

Thank You for Your Understanding

Thank you in advance for understanding as we all work together to ensure the health and safety of our visitors and staff.  We look forward to your visit and even more so to the day when we can fully reopen, resume our regular schedule and operations, and welcome everyone without restriction!  May God bless you!

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