Diocese welcomes expanded capacity order

BRIDGEPORT—The State of Connecticut has removed the cap of 100 people for indoor religious gatherings, making it possible for larger churches in the diocese to expand their capacity at each celebration of the Mass.

Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 10 on Thursday, February 4, removing the previous cap of 100 people for indoor religious gatherings. Under the modification of the state mandate, restrictions on religious gatherings have been eased to permit indoor capacity of up to—but not to exceed—50 percent.

In a memo to all priests, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed the modifications and emphasized that the easing of restrictions must be accompanied by maintaining existing safety protocols including wearing masks and providing seating that observes recommended social distancing—six feet of space in all directions between individuals or groups not from the same household during a liturgical celebration.

While larger churches in the diocese will be able to include more people at Mass, smaller church structures will likely not benefit from the expanded capacity change because they lack the space for adequate social distancing between pews.

The bishop said that in effect, this change means that every Church building will have its own, specific “maximum” capacity number dependent upon the actual seating capacity of the building. For most parishes that can seat people in every other pew, maximum capacity will likely range between twenty and twenty-five percent because of the social distancing restrictions that remain in place.

“If we wish to be successful in our future attempts to invite more people to return to Sunday Mass, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to maintain the safety of our people,” said Bishop Caggiano as he thanked pastors and priests for their patience and cooperation.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference, representing the Catholic dioceses of the state, issued a statement welcoming the expanded capacity policy.

“We view this new lifting of the cap on attendance at worship as an important step forward welcoming back more of our faithful to Mass and the sacraments. Freedom of religion is the most sacred of our God-given and constitutional rights… At the same time, we remain firmly committed to ensuring that all steps are taken to promote public health and safety.”

The Catholic Conference statement pointed out that Infections and related problems in Catholic parishes have been minimal due to the commitment to safety and the hard work of all concerned.