Area Catholics who haven’t set foot in a church in more than a year are being asked to return.
As was announced by area bishops a few weeks ago, the dispensation from the in-person weekly obligation is lifted as of this weekend.
It was kind of a shock to the system back in March 2020, when Catholics were told that Masses were being suspended due to the pandemic. Most had never in their lifetimes known a time when churches closed their doors — or had the obligation to attend weekly services lifted.
Churches did accommodate their parishioners, figuring out ways to livestream Masses. Under normal circumstances, Catholics are required to attend Sunday Mass as part of practicing their faith.
But that time of remote attendance is now over.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, of the Washington archdiocese — which also covers Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland — and Bishop Michael Burbidge, of the diocese of Arlington, are among church leaders who say it’s time for the faithful to return to full, in-person participation, “due to the decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19 and the return to some sense of normalcy in the region.”
The Diocese of Arlington said churches can now celebrate Mass and other liturgies at full capacity and with no social distancing limitations. Fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks. Those who are unvaccinated are encouraged to wear masks for the time being.
No one will be asked about their vaccination status and no one will be restricted from entering a church or inhibited in any way for not wearing a mask.
Singing by full choirs and the faithful, which was suspended during the pandemic, may now be reintroduced. It is now up the pastor’s discretion to continue livestream Masses for the benefit of the homebound.