Archdiocese of Baltimore to offer public masses for first time in months

For the first time since mid-March, some parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will offer public masses as parts of Maryland move to relax coronavirus mitigation efforts.

Parishes will be allowed to celebrate mass at a third of their full capacity for the feast of Pentecost on May 30 and 31, as long as their local jurisdiction is allowing religious services for more than 10 people at a time and the parish has taken required precautions for sanitizing and maintaining social distancing.

Each parish will have to evaluate on their own whether it is ready to reopen, and can choose to remain closed.The archdiocese has 153 parishes and missions in 10 jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick counties, as well as Baltimore City and county.

“I think it’s safe to say everybody misses the opportunity to receive the sacraments, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist,” Bishop Adam J. Parker told the Catholic Review, the archdiocese’s publication . “At the same time, we are hearing from a number of people who are urging us to exercise caution about reopening too soon.”

Parker estimated that about 15 to 20 of the 90 pastorates would go forward with services this weekend and expected that overall attendance would remain on the low end, based on the experiences of other jurisdictions.

The archdiocese encouraged members to wear masks and sit in spaces as designated by their church. Practitioners are encouraged to receive Communion in hand and not on the tongue to avoid the virus spreading more easily through contact with the face.

“All along, we have balanced public health concerns and pastoral concerns — and although the two go hand-in-hand, it has not always been easy,” Archbishop William E. Lori said in a message Tuesday. “It’s not a very pastoral thing to put people in harm’s way.”

The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington have yet to make similar moves.

On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said it would wait for an update on progress from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam before determining its next steps.

Pending Northam’s approval, Northern Virginia is poised to begin a phase one reopening May 29 that would bring the region in line with the rest of the state. Northam had approved a delay earlier this month after local leaders said they had not observed a sufficient enough decrease in community spread.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct dates for the public masses.

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Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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