Catholic dioceses across the United States have announced that Masses will begin to feel more normal after more than a year of mask terms and capacity limits.
Many dioceses drop mask requirements and social distancing rules for fully vaccinated worshipers, relying on honor system as pandemic restrictions ease further with announcement by Centers for Disease Control that fully immunized people do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.
In Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron said on Wednesday that anyone who has not been vaccinated should still wear masks at mass and other religious services. “Parishes do not have the responsibility of checking who is and who is not vaccinated,” said the archbishop. The church will rely on the people to control themselves. The capacity limits, which stood at 50 percent, are also being removed.
Many dioceses are dropping mask requirements and social distancing rules for fully vaccinated worshipers, relying on an honor system
The same goes for churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which announced today that they are dropping mask requirements for those vaccinated and, among other changes, will return hymns to the pews.
“It’s a good day,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a press release. “Our churches are back at full capacity, although we continue to maintain restrictions knowing that there are still people to be vaccinated.”
Choirs will be allowed to return to churches in Brooklyn, and choir servers will once again assist priests during mass. Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks, the diocese said, and keep their distance from others. A shared cup of communion is still prohibited.
A shared cup of communion is still prohibited.
The Archdiocese of Boston is waiting an additional week to implement similar changes, he said on Friday. From May 29, the vaccinated faithful will no longer be required to wear masks or to distance themselves socially. However, it was left to individual pastors to decide how quickly to abandon the remaining restrictions.
“Every parishioner and every family will have to make a healthy and reasonable decision as to when they are ready to take off their masks and be near other people,” the archdiocese said in a press release. “No parish priest or parish will be required to ask people whether they have been vaccinated or not.”
But if the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston do not feel ready to lose their masks, parishes should tell the faithful “that they are free to continue wearing masks for as long as they wish, and that they will be respected if they choose to do so “. As for exchanging the peace sign, pastors need to be careful before reintroducing handshakes and perhaps looking for alternative methods.
Parishes should tell the faithful “that they are free to continue wearing masks for as long as they wish,” said the Archdiocese of Boston.
The Archdiocese of Chicago is taking a slightly more cautious approach than some other dioceses, adopting a sort of “vaccination passport” that will give some worshipers the opportunity to be in churches without masks. Fully vaccinated people should “bring proof of vaccination” to mass, said the archdiocese, which could be “a photo of the vaccination card on the parishioner’s phone.” Otherwise, masks should be required until Illinois moves on to its next phase of reopening. Like other dioceses, Catholic schools in Chicago will continue to require the wearing of masks.
In the Archdiocese of New York, churches are encouraged to create “physical distancing” sections for parishioners who are not vaccinated or who wish to maintain social distancing measures. But for Catholics in New York City who wish to sing in choirs, present gifts at Communion, or serve as altar servers, proof of vaccination will be required.
At the start of the pandemic, Catholic dioceses across the United States offered a general dispensation that freed Catholics from the obligation to attend weekly mass. Some dioceses put an end to this practice quite early. Now that nearly 60% of American adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, many other dioceses are hoping Catholics will return to church.
“Bring proof of vaccination” to mass, said the Archdiocese of Chicago, which could be “a photo of the vaccination card on the parishioner’s phone.
This Pentecost Sunday, May 23, Catholics in the Denver area will no longer be exempt from mass. New Jersey Catholics are urged to return to church by the first weekend in June, although security protocols and capacity limits will remain. The dioceses of Indiana, meanwhile, will end their general dispensations on June 11.
As for the return to normal, the note from the Archdiocese of Boston reminded church leaders that parishes would not have survived the previous 15 months without the dedication of an array of Catholics.
“There are many heroes among our volunteers who have provided life to our parishes during these difficult times,” the memo reads. “They must be recognized and thanked, collectively and personally.”
Associated Press material has been used in this report.