Catholics in New Jersey expected back at Mass this weekend
The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey — including Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark — have lifted a “dispensation of obligation” to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, beginning June 5.
The bishops said in a joint statement that there are exceptions: those who are ill, have reason to believe they were recently exposed to the coronavirus or another contagious sickness, who are confined to homes or medical facilities, or who have serious underlying health issues are not mandated to attend Mass.
“Parishioners are encouraged to consult with their pastor if they have questions about the need to receive the Eucharist,” the statement said.
According to a directive from the Archdiocese of Newark, churches and parish facilities may return to 100% capacity effective June 4. The same day, New Jersey formally lifted all remaining indoor gathering restrictions, though many were lifted in the previous weeks.
Parishioners are also to be informed that if they are vaccinated, they are no longer required to wear a mask, the directive states. Unvaccinated people should still wear masks, and anyone vaccinated should feel free to do so, it states.
But the directive also gives leeway to individual parishes to impose stricter restrictions at their own discretion.
"These may include wearing masks, social distancing, and signing in for Mass or activities," the directive states."
Parishoners will no longer be required to register for Mass activities for contact tracing purposes, but have the option of doing so, according to the directive.
During Communion, the Sign of Peace should be offered but made without physical contact, it says.
"Communicants will continue to receive Communion in the hand. If not fully vaccinated,
they lower their masks to consume the host, then replace their masks. The chalice is
still prohibited for the assembly," according to the directive.
It says in parishes that have eliminated music, singing should be "gradually returned," starting with the sung parts of the Mass.
"It still needs to be noted that even with precautions in place, it is still possible to contract Covid-19 in church," the directive states. "All liturgical ministers should be aware that as parishioners return to Mass, some are experiencing fear and anxiety. There are also parishioners who have underlying health conditions which add to their apprehension. It is important that all ministers comply with these directives in order to ensure the safety of all those attending parish liturgies."
— Louis C. Hochman