Area Catholics who've been unable to attend Mass due to the coronavirus crisis can rejoice in the fact that Mass is back.
The Archdiocese of Boston announced Monday afternoon that parishes can resume Mass as of Saturday, but strict guidelines require that no more than 40% of a church's capacity can be occupied, social distancing must be followed for the seating arrangement in pews, and restrictions must be in place for the safe distribution of Communion. Weddings and funerals can happen, but with similar restrictions.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley is encouraging people who are vulnerable, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, to continue to watch Mass from their homes on their parish’s social media or on CatholicTV.
A statement released Monday by the Archdiocese said, “If a parish within the Archdiocese of Boston, after careful and deliberate preparation, considers that they are able to meet all of the state, municipal, and Archdiocesan guidelines, they may request permission from their Regional Bishop or Episcopal Vicar to begin Masses as early as Saturday evening, May 23.''
The document notes that many, or even most, parishes may need more time to prepare, and may choose Sunday, May 31, as the date for their reopening. That is the Feast of Pentecost.
Parishioners are encouraged to bring their own bottles of hand sanitizer to church, or use sanitizer provided by the parish and positioned at the entry to the church.
Parishioners also must wear masks, with a few exceptions: Children under the age of 2 should not wear masks; parents should judge for children between the ages of 2 and 5 whether they should wear a mask; all people who claim an exemption because of health can forego wearing a mask and they do not have to provide documentation; the priest and others assisting him during the Mass must wear masks when assisting with the distribution of Communion.
With reasonable exceptions allowed, there should be no public access to the sacristy while the church is open.
There will be no social gatherings either before or after Mass.
For more information, visit online at rcabrisk.org/re-opening-guidance.