Bishop Says Local Catholic Churches Can Resume Public Masses in June
Catholic churches in Centre County and elsewhere in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will be permitted to resume public masses the weekend of June 13-14, Bishop Mark Bartchak said on Wednesday.
The new directives also allow priests to resume the public celebration of reconciliation on Saturday, May 23. Distribution of Holy Communion can begin on June 1 while continuing to have private masses, Bartchak said.
Public masses in the diocese have been suspended since March 17 amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, and on April 1 Bartchak directed that all church buildings be closed to the public.
Last week, however, Bartchak announced a plan for gradually reopening churches and services, beginning with the opening of churches for private prayer on May 16, with a number of virus mitigation measures in place.
Bartchak said that as the sacraments are made available appropriate training and safety precautions will occur.
The resumption of public confession services, Holy Communion distribution and public masses each come with a long list of safety requirements. Among them, no more than 25 people are to be inside the church at a time and requests for exceptions are to be directed to the vicar general.
All people entering the church are required to wear a mask. The celebrant will only wear a mask during distribution of communion. Song leaders and readers are to wear a mask except for when they are singing or speaking. No sign of peace will be offered except to say "Peace be with you."
Social distancing parameters are to remain in place, though members of the same household may be seated together, and printed materials must be removed from the pews. Song sheets or other worship aids that are discarded immediately after mass or taken home may be provided.
See the full list of requirements here.
The diocese reminded parishioners that Catholics are not obligated to participate in Sunday mass during the current circumstances until further notice, and all are encouraged to view the celebration of Sunday mass on television or online.
“We rejoice at the progress being made, and we continue to pray for one another in the days ahead,” Bartchak said in a statement.