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More dioceses require Catholics to return to Sunday Mass


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John Burger - published on 06/21/21

As Americans continue to get vaccinated, bishops restore obligation.
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More and more dioceses are lifting the dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation, with many restoring the obligation in the month of June.

In the Diocese of San Diego, California, Bishop Robert McElroy this past week announced that Catholics will need to attend Mass in person again beginning on July 4. 

“All of the restrictions on capacity and spacing for worship and all limitations on meetings and social activities are lifted as of today,” Bishop McElroy said, according to NBC. “Masks will still be optional, recognizing that the CDC recommends the practice of wearing masks for those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

As with most, if not all, diocesan guidelines, San Diego will continue to grant a dispensation to those who are ill, vulnerable or who are apprehensive about their safety.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in a letter to parishioners, lifted the dispensation effective June 19.

“On June 19 and 20, I encourage the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to return to in-person Sunday Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments, especially for those who are in good health,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

The bishops of the five dioceses in Indiana announced that effective June 11, they were lifting the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

“With the decrease of cases in our state,” the widespread availability of vaccines and following the guidance of public health officials, we are now able to safely accommodate more parishioners for Masses,” they wrote. 

Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said, “Participation in the celebration of Mass is a privilege unlike any other. There is no greater form of prayer for Catholics, given our eucharistic-centered identity and mission, than gathering for the celebration of the Mass.”

In early June, the archdioceses and dioceses in Washington, Baltimore, West Virginia, Richmond, Northern Virginia and Wilmington, Delaware, announced the lifting of the dispensation as of the weekend of June 26-27. 

“We welcome and encourage the Faithful to return to full in-person participation of the Sunday Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith, the bishops of these dioceses said in a statement,” according to the Washington Post.

The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, said in mid-May that the dispensation hadn’t been lifted, but “all who are able are encouraged to attend Mass.”

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, restrictions regarding social distancing and capacity limits on churches were lifted as of June 2. All churches in the archdiocese were able to remove the ropes between pews.


Along with the announcements that dispensations are being lifted, some dioceses have devised ways to encourage Catholics to return to Sunday Mass. The Indianapolis Archdiocese, for example, is offering a series of six videos in which Catholics share why the Eucharist is at the center of their lives.

“When a person really understands what’s going on at Mass and who it is they have an opportunity to encounter and receive, then they literally build their weekend around Mass,” Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, told Catholic News Service.

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley recorded a video to drive home the importance of attending Mass, as he reinstated the Sunday obligation June 20. 

“Home. What is home?” the video says. “The pandemic has revealed to us that our homes are so much more than our houses. Home is our family, our friends, our community. Home is our churches, our places of worship, our parishes. Home is the Mass.”

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