Declaring that it is time for the faithful to be able to return to Mass if they choose to do so, Bishop Alfred Schlert today announced that parishes in the Diocese will reopen Masses to the public beginning June 1.
“Our faith plays a vital role in our lives, especially during times of pandemic,” Bishop Schlert said. “Catholics throughout the region, deprived of the Eucharist for so long, yearn for the opportunity to once again receive Holy Communion.”
Mass attendance remains voluntary in the yellow phase. Those who do not feel safe, or who have compromising health conditions, should not attend.
The dispensation from the Mass obligation will remain in place until the green phase, and online livestream Masses will continue.
Guidelines will be in place so that the faithful, if they choose to attend Mass and other Sacraments in person, can do so with the assurance that all reasonable steps have been taken to protect their health.
Priests are being trained in new protocols, including how to distribute Holy Communion safely. Precautions will be taken to ensure that the distribution can occur reverently, but also in a manner that protects the health of the people involved.
The main priority is the safety of the faithful, and the safety of priests. The faithful will be required to wear masks. Strict social distancing will be required, and ushers will help ensure that protocol. Mass attendance indoors will be restricted to no more than 25 percent of a church’s seating capacity. Larger outdoor Masses will be permitted, with proper distancing precautions.
There will be no hymnals, to help prevent the spread of the virus. Only certain entrances and exits will be in use, and the faithful will be dismissed by pew to limit large gatherings after Mass.
Parishes are securing cleaning supplies and sanitizer. Holy Water fonts will remain empty.
For Baptisms, weddings and funerals, the participation limit also is no more than 25 percent of the church’s seating capacity.
“The decision to end public attendance at Masses was painful for everyone involved, but necessary for the times,” Bishop Schlert said. “With the precautions that we have taken, we can now offer responsible worship for those who wish, while continuing to act in service of the public good.”