BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced new guidelines that will remove most COVID-19 restrictions as the faithful return to in-person Mass.
Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask during Mass, and the Churches will return to full capacity without the need for social distancing.
The new guidelines follow the release of the May 10 letter by Bishop Caggiano, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair and Norwich Bishop Michael Cote formally lifting the depensation from Sunday Mass obligation and calling all Catholics in Connecticut back to in-person Mass beginning the weekend of May 22, with the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost.
The loosening of restrictions was made possible by recent developments including new CDC guidelines and Governor Ned Lamont’s announcement that vaccinated residents of Connecticut are no longer required to wear masks indoors after May 19th, 2021.
“It is time for us to come home, It is time for us to come together as a family of faith,” the bishop said. “The obligation to come to Mass rises and finds its fulfillment in love,” said the bishop, who issued detailed revised guidelines for the return to communal worship and the reception of the Eucharist,
Bishop Cagginao said the revised diocesan guidelines are meant to answer the questions of the large number of people who are expected to return to in-person Mass over the coming weeks and to clear up any confusion about what to expect. In a memo to pastors and priests, he outlined the following response:
- For those who are fully vaccinated, they are no longer required to wear a mask to attend Mass or any other liturgical or social function held on parish property.
- In an abundance of safety, pastors are encouraged to remind those who are fully vaccinated that they are free and welcome to continue to wear masks if they choose to do so.
- All those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks when attending Mass or any other liturgical or social function held on parish property.
The bishop noted that while there is no way for the diocese or a parish to enforce the mask requirement for the unvaccinated, he asked pastors to remind parishioners that this obligation “is borne from our commitment to protect human life, transcends the mandate of the state. It flows from our very belief in the Lord of life, who commands us to protect, defend and respect all human life, from natural conception to natural death.”
Among the highlights of the new guidelines, parishioners will no longer have to register for Mass, and all pews will be available for seating because social distancing is no longer required by the state. The congregation will also be able to join in singing.
Communion will only be distributed under one species in the form of the consecrated host and may be received either in the hand or on the tongue based on the choice of the communicant.
Confessionals may return to full use though proper ventilation is strongly encouraged. Likewise, social distancing will no longer be required at weddings and funerals, and outdoor Masses will be permitted to continue throughout the year.
On the weekend of May 22, the faithful will also notice the return of Church of Missals in the pews, printed bulletins, along with holy items, cards, and books. The exchange of the sign of peace is optional. If parishioners exchange of the sign of peace, then it is recommended that the sign of peace must be a non-contact gesture (bow).
In announcing the end to most restrictions, the bishop emphasized that the diocese will not drop it guard of the hard earned progress to protect lives. Churches will be sanitized, He has also made it clear that those who are already sick, who need to quarantine and have other serious health conditions, and their caretakers are excused from the obligation.
The new guidelines are reflect the success of the vaccination effort, which have led to decreasing hospitalizations throughout the state.
All Parish or Private functions must follow state guidelines, and there are no additional restrictions for these events beyond what the state mandates.
The CDC defines a person fully vaccinated 2 weeks after the second Moderna or Pfizer shot and 2 weeks after the single Johnson & Johnson shot. It is still recommending wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, specifically buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but fully-vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”