Mass without masks? It’s waiting for you—when you’re ready.
Catholic dioceses around the United States have announced that Masses will start to feel more normal following more than a year of mask mandates and capacity limits.
Many dioceses are dropping mask requirements and social distancing rules for fully vaccinated worshippers, relying on an honor system as pandemic restrictions ease further with the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.
In Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron said Wednesday anyone who has not been vaccinated must still wear masks at Mass and other church services. “Parishes do not have the responsibility to verify who is and who is not vaccinated,” said the archbishop. The church will rely on people to police themselves. Capacity limits, which had stood at 50 percent, are also being eliminated.
Many dioceses are dropping mask requirements and social distancing rules for fully vaccinated worshippers, relying on an honor system
The same is true for churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which announced today that it was dropping mask requirements for vaccinated people and would, among other changes, return hymnals to pews.
“It is a good day,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in a press release. “Our churches are at full capacity once again, though we continue to keep restrictions in place knowing there are people yet to be vaccinated.”
Choirs will be allowed to return to Brooklyn churches, and altar servers will once again assist priests during Mass. Unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks, the diocese said, and keep their distance from other people. A shared Communion cup is still prohibited.
A shared Communion cup is still prohibited.
The Archdiocese of Boston is waiting an extra week to implement similar changes, it announced on Friday. Beginning May 29, vaccinated worshippers will not be required to wear masks or socially distance. It has been left to individual pastors, however, to decide how quickly to drop the remaining restrictions.
“Every parishioner and every family will be expected to make a sound, reasonable decision about when they are ready to take off their masks and be near other people,” the archdiocese said in a press release. “No pastor and no parish will be expected to ask people whether or not they have been vaccinated.”
But should Catholics in the Boston archdiocese not feel ready to lose their masks, parishes should tell worshippers “that they are free to continue to wear masks as long as they like, and that they will be respected if they choose to do so.” As for exchanging the sign of peace, pastors should be cautious about reintroducing handshakes and perhaps seek alternate methods.
Parishes should tell worshippers “that they are free to continue to wear masks as long as they like," said the Archdiocese of Boston.
The Archdiocese of Chicago is taking a slightly more cautious approach than some other dioceses, embracing a sort of “vaccine passport” that will give some worshippers the ability to be in churches without masks. Fully vaccinated people should “bring proof of vaccination” to Mass, the archdiocese said, which could be “a picture of the vaccination card on the parishioner’s phone.” Otherwise, masks should be required until Illinois moves to its next reopening phase. Like other dioceses, Catholic schools in Chicago will continue to require that masks be worn.
In the Archdiocese of New York, churches are being encouraged to create “physical distance” sections for parishioners who are either not vaccinated or who would like to maintain social distancing measures. But for New York Catholics who wish to sing in choirs, present the gifts at Communion or act as altar servers, proof of vaccination will be required.
In the early days of the pandemic, Catholic dioceses throughout the United States offered a general dispensation that freed Catholics from the obligation to attend weekly Mass. Some dioceses ended that practice fairly early. Now that nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose, 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 picture of the vaccination card on the parishioner’s phone.
This Pentecost Sunday, May 23, Denver-area Catholics will no longer be excused from Mass. Catholics in New Jersey are being asked to return to church by the first weekend in June, though safety protocols and capacity limits will remain. Dioceses in Indiana, meanwhile, will end their general dispensations on June 11.
As for getting back to normal, the memo from the Boston archdiocese reminded church leaders that parishes would not have survived the previous 15 months without dedication from a range of Catholics.
“There are many heroes among our volunteers that have kept our parishes going during these difficult times,” the memo said. “They should be acknowledged and thanked, collectively and personally.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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