BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued guidelines for the return to Mass now that the state’s three dioceses have called Catholics back to in-person Mass beginning the weekend of May 22, with the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost.
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 dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation that was put in place last March to safeguard lives during the pandemic.
“It is time for us to come home, It is time for us to come together as a family of faith,” the bishop said in a video that accompanies the guidelines. “The obligation to come to Mass rises and finds its fulfillment in love,” said the bishop who made a fervent and heartfelt appeal “to everyone to come home, to join the sisters and brothers who are already worshiping in person, to come home and to come to Christ and to allow him to feed you his body, blood, soul and divinity.”
After a year of hardship, he said that many are eager to return communal worship and the reception of the Eucharist, and the guidelines will assure them that they can now do so safely.
The new 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.
Most restrictions put in place during the pandemic have been removed; however, masks will still be required and must be put on prior to entering any church or parish facility.
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 will no longer be required by the state. For the first time in over a year, the congregation will now be able to join in singing but must do so while wearing a mask.
Communion will only be distributed under one species in the form of the consecrated host, and it may be received either in the hand or on the tongue based on the choice of the communicant.
Confessionals may return to full use through proper ventilation is strongly encouraged. Likewise, social distancing will no longer be required at weddings and funerals. Beginning May 22, the faithful will notice the return of Church bulletins, holy items, cards, and books. The guidelines also permit outdoor Masses to continue throughout the year.
In announcing the end to most restrictions, the bishop emphasized that the diocese will not drop it guard in its efforts to protect lives. Churches will be sanitized, the faithful will continue to wear masks and parishes will follow state guidelines.
The bishop 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 consistent with Governor Lamont’s recent decision to limit indoor restrictions on public assembly only to the mandatory wearing of masks as vaccinations are increasing, and hospitalizations are decreasing throughout the state. All parish or private functions must follow state guidelines. There are no additional restrictions for parish and diocesan events beyond what the state mandates. The state is planning to publish new guidelines for indoor activities on May 19.
“Now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted throughout the State of Connecticut, and given that many of our parishioners have been vaccinated, it is my hope that those who have not been coming to Mass will now be returning to in-person worship. With that in mind, we have published these detailed Guidelines for the celebration of Mass,” said Bishop Caggiano.