Pittsburgh churches

Catholic Diocese to Lift Capacity Restrictions, But Masks Still Required | Local News

Capacity restrictions on all churches in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will be lifted effective Memorial Day, the diocese announced Wednesday evening, although parishioners will be required to continue to wear masks.

This means that on May 31, which is Memorial Day, all churches in the diocese can be open at 100% capacity, which has not happened since the pandemic began 14 months ago. However, the diocese also encourages churches to designate pews for those who prefer to stay socially distanced.

The move comes after Governor Tom Wolf announced last week that all COVID-19 mitigation orders, except the mask warrant, will be lifted statewide on the last day of the month. Wolf said the mask’s mandate will also be lifted once 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully immunized. As of this week, about 45% of adults in the Commonwealth were fully immunized.

As masks remain compulsory during services, they should be worn in all parish buildings, although priests, deacons, cantors and readers are permitted to remove their masks when singing or speaking.

Bishop David Zubik explained: “We look forward to welcoming more people to Holy Mass and to the reception of Holy Communion. We are delighted to go in this direction. “

According to the diocese, many of the summer festivals that are the mainstays of religious calendars will also be back this year.

The Diocese of Greensburg, which includes 78 parishes in Fayette, Westmoreland, Indiana and Armstrong counties, has also chosen to allow full attendance at Mass starting on Memorial Day, according to spokesperson Paul Paterra. However, the exemption from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains in effect.

“I am delighted to see our parishioners already returning to Mass in person, and I am optimistic that more of the faithful congregations will return to our pews each week to experience the special fellowship that occurs when we let’s celebrate Mass together, ”said Reverend Daniel L. Blout, pastor of Our Lady of Grace parish in Greensburg.

Late last year, the United States Supreme Court struck down capacity limits on places of worship, giving religious organizations leeway that businesses and other institutions did not have in the midst of the pandemic. Outside the Catholic Church, the governing bodies of the Christian denominations in this region have left the decision of whether or not to organize and conduct services to the pastor and councils of the various churches.

“Local congregations have the capacity to determine these things,” said Rev. Kurt Kusserow, bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The synod, however, suggested that congregations follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it added.

No specific guidelines have been issued for the churches in the Washington Rectory, the Washington and Greene County Presbyterian Church Network, said Craig Kephart, the executive priest.

“Our system is much more bottom-up than top-down,” Kephart said, adding that churches in the network had been “cautious and wise” in the midst of the pandemic.

The Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church updated its guidelines earlier this month, as the pace of vaccinations accelerated. Church leaders should encourage members to get immunized, as directed, but avoid large indoor gatherings, use masks, and wash their hands frequently.

“We always recommend masks and maintain the appropriate distance,” said Jackie Campbell, conference spokesperson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.