Dolan says that if Catholics feel free to shop or go to sports games, they should also be in church.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has urged Catholics to return to Mass.
In an Easter message published in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, Dolan strongly encouraged parishioners who might still be hesitant to go to church during a pandemic to put fears aside and begin to attend in-person services again.
His appeal came shortly after the bishops of Nebraska announced plans to restore the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. The obligation will be restored May 23 in the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Dioceses of Lincoln and Grand Island.
“The reason all Catholics have a grave obligation of being physically present for Mass on Sundays and holy days is because the Eucharist is at the heart of what it is to be a Christian,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote in a March 31 announcement.
Unlike many dioceses and archdioceses, the Archdiocese of New York never lifted the Sunday obligation, said archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling, “although, of course, there was a period when public Mass was not being celebrated and people could not attend.”
“It has always been the case that a person could, for grave reason — age, illness, infirmity, for instance — legitimately miss Mass; that was particularly true during the pandemic, and remains the case now,” Zwilling said. “But, now that more and more people are being vaccinated, and participating in other events (going to the mall, attending sporting events, eating out at a restaurant, etc.) they should also be returning to Mass. Attending Sunday Mass is a divine obligation, and we cannot dispense from it.”
In his Catholic New York column, Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that out of an abundance of caution, churches were closed for public worship at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and that even when they began to reopen, people were excused from attendance if they still had concerns about contagion.
But now, he said, it’s becoming more and more apparent that many of those same people have little hesitation to frequent secular venues, even as they continue to skip Sunday Mass.
“For the majority of us — are we going to restaurants? To the kids’ soccer and little league games? To the store? To the beauty parlor? To gatherings with family and friends?” Dolan asked. “Well, then, it’s time to get back to Mass.”
He said that a pastor in the archdiocese told him that while shopping in local supermarkets, he kept meeting parishioners who “told him how they missed Sunday Mass and wanted to get back.”
The pastor said to them, “Here you are in a crowded store shopping, taking your time, in contact with items touched by hundreds of people. Church is a lot safer! Come back to get food for your soul!”
Dolan said that parishes have been able to welcome worshipers by engaging in “scrupulous cleaning, sanitation, ventilation, distancing, and restrictions — masks, no holy water or sign of peace, no contact or Communion from the chalice.”
“It’s time to get back to Sunday Mass,” the cardinal urged. “Wear masks, yes! Get tested, you bet! Wash hands, please! Get vaccinated as soon as you can, sure! Keep social distancing, of course! Don’t go if you’re sick, elderly or your health is shaky, obviously! Don’t shake hands! Be grateful good folks carefully sanitize the Church after each Mass. But, for God’s sake, get back to Sunday Mass!
“We need medicine,” he concluded. “We need food for the soul! We need vaccination from sin, Satan and eternal death! We need herd immunity as sheep under Christ our Good Shepherd. All this we behold at Mass! How can we stay away? Easter blessings! See you at Mass!”