By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – After careful study and consultation with the clergy, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will lift the general dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, effective on the Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi beginning with the vigil Mass on Saturday, June 5, 2021.
In a letter released on May 20 by the diocese, Bishop Kopacz states, “The Sunday obligation will be restored on this great feast when we can satisfy our hunger for the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament with the reception of Holy Communion.”
Bishop Kopacz also reminds the faithful in his letter to keep in mind that the church always dispenses those confronting serious health concerns. “Therefore, someone can validly make the decision to attend Mass during the week, if able, and to participate in the Mass on the Lord’s Day through live streaming,”
In addition to lifting the general dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation, the diocese modified their protocols during the pandemic. The directives, which represents a combination of previously released protocols, detail how parishes can move forward towards more normal operations, taking a gradual phased approach, with a watchful eye on the developments and guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health.
For Masses, social distancing will be at 3 feet and parishes may use every pew, deciding how to stagger seating to maintain social distancing.
Also, masks are no longer required at Mass but encouraged for those who are not vaccinated and for children and youth under the age of 16. However, priests and eucharistic ministers are required to wear masks when distributing Holy Communion.
With the changes, some things remain the same. Holy Communion is still encouraged to be received in the hand and hand sanitizer should still be used by parishioners upon entrance to the church.
The updated protocols also include directives on meetings, gatherings, as well as youth activities and Vacation Bible School.
Pastors and their pastoral staff are responsible for the safe and prudent execution of the directives, recognizing that every parish has unique circumstances. The goal is to continue to provide a safe place for worship while maintaining a level of confidence for all the people of God.
On May 13, the CDC eased the mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and most indoor settings. The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
Father Lincoln Dall, vicar general for the diocese, stated at the end of the directives, “We want to thank all of you for your efforts in keeping our parishioners safe during the pandemic. We acknowledge that all of us are very weary of dealing with the pandemic. … However, we acknowledge that this is still is not the time to let our guard down completely. We will continue to monitor the situation and will issue modified guidelines when the reality of the pandemic changes.”
To view the letter from Bishop Kopacz lifting the dispensation and a full list of updated protocols, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/public-health-concerns/.
By Joanna Puddister King