In light of Governor Cuomo’s announcement June 6 that houses of worship may resume public gatherings at 25 percent capacity beginning immediately, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has announced that any parishes in the Diocese of Albany that are able to offer public liturgies while maintaining safety protocols related to COVID-19 may do so at any time.
The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in place, so those who are vulnerable or even simply uncomfortable attending a public liturgy are encouraged to remain at home and view Mass via livestreams, which will continue in local parishes. (For livestream information, visit rcda.org/livemass)
“On this weekend, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity and look forward to next weekend’s celebration of Corpus Christi, we are ever more aware of and grateful for the great gift of the Eucharist. We know our people are hungering to return to their churches and to the sacraments, and their priests and parish leaders are hungering to offer this spiritual food to their people,” said Bishop Scharfenberger, who has kept churches open throughout the pandemic so local Catholics could pray privately. “I am happy to announce that any churches that can do so safely may resume the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.”
Parishes throughout the Diocese have been working on plans to ensure they can meet safety standards that will keep the six-foot social distancing requirement in place throughout Mass.
In addition, many other protocols must be met in order for parishes to open. (Visit rcda.org/coronavirus/timely-instructions to view detailed parish guidelines and protocols.) The Diocese of Albany has enlisted the help of health professionals in creating its guidelines and has shared them with local authorities in its 14 counties.
Local Catholics are urged to check with their parishes before planning to attend a Mass, as every parish has unique procedures and protocols and will have different ways of offering public Mass, reserving seats, logging visits, etc. In addition, because many priests serving in parishes throughout the Diocese are themselves vulnerable, they may choose to (and are encouraged to) opt out of serving if they have concerns about their health and safety. In those cases, a local parish may join with another local parish for public liturgies.
Parishioners should bring/wear their own masks and, if possible, a bottle of hand sanitizer for use upon entering, before receiving Communion, after receiving Communion, and after exiting the church. Catholics should plan on restricted seating, a change in the reception of Communion in order to ensure social distancing, exit strategies to ensure social distancing, etc. Visit rcda.org/coronavirus and follow diocesan social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates on the return to public Masses and other COVID-related information.