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Public Masses may resume ‘as early as this weekend,’ with restrictions

SEATTLE – Public celebration of the Eucharist may resume at some parishes as soon as this weekend, the bishops of Washington state announced May 27, following new guidelines from Gov. Jay Inslee.

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne suspended the public celebration of the Mass on March 11 to slow the spread of COVID-19 for the common good, and religious services have been restricted by the governor.

According to the governor’s new guidelines, announced during a May 27 press conference, congregations throughout the state may hold outdoor religious services with up to 100 people present.

In counties that have reached Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan, indoor church services are allowed with up to 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less.

Physical distancing and facemasks are required at all services, the governor said.

The state’s bishops have distributed their own guidelines for reopening Masses to parish leaders.

“Once parish leaders have informed their local bishop that the required safety measures are in place, they may resume celebration of the Eucharist according to the new protocols,” the bishops wrote in a letter to the faithful released May 27. “Worship may begin as early as this weekend.”

According to the bishops’ letter, new protocols for Mass include:

  • Anyone experiencing a fever or symptoms should remain at home and not attend Mass.
  • Parishioners may receive Communion only in their hands.
  • Practice strict social distancing of 6 feet apart from members of different households.
  • Parishioners must wear masks.
  • Mass will be of shorter duration.

“Safety measures are employed, not out of fear, but out of love for neighbor and concern for the vulnerable,” the bishops wrote. “As the impact of the novel coronavirus can be unpredictable, we will work with public health authorities to ensure that the highest standards of safety are implemented.”

According to the reopening plan distributed to parishes, each parish should develop a sign-up system, and Mass attendance will be by reservation only.

The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will remain in effect, the bishops said, and Masses will continue to be livestreamed.

“As we reopen our churches for Mass, we know that these measures are temporary and will be updated over time,” the bishops wrote. “We are implementing safety measures to protect the health of our community and care for the vulnerable. We trust in the Lord, and we look forward to the day when we may all attend Mass together.”

Read the full letter below.  

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