BOSTON (CBS) – The Archdiocese of Boston is getting ready to reopen Catholic churches as part of Massachusetts Phase 1 reopening plan. Some could have masses as early as this coming weekend, but under strict new guidelines.
If a parish has been deep cleaned and believes they’re ready with coronavirus precautions, they have to get permission from their regional bishop or episcopal vicar to begin masses, which can start as early as Saturday evening, May 23.
Once masses resume, there will be restrictions. For example, most parishoners will have to wear masks.
“Strict guidelines require that no more than 40% of the Church capacity can be in attendance, social distancing must be followed for pews and restrictions for the safe distribution of Communion must be in place,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “Weddings and funerals may proceed but with the similar restrictions.”
If a person comes to Mass and then tests positive for COVID-19, the parish will have to notify that town’s board of health to help trace contacts.
For parishes that need more time to prepare, the Archdiocese suggested waiting until Sunday, May 31 to reopen.
“No matter what the start date, no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines,” the Archdiocese said in its statement.
Churches have been live streaming services since the Archdiocese suspended all daily and Sunday masses back on March 13.
“The dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue for the foreseeable future,” the Archdiocese said Monday. “Cardinal Seán strongly encourages people in vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those with complicating physical conditions, to continue to watch Mass from their homes, on their parish’s social media or on CatholicTV.”
At his news conference at Boston City Hall Tuesday, Mayor Marty Walsh agreed.
“I want to speak directly to seniors today, including my mother and my aunt and uncle. I know that for many of you, your place of worship is the heart of your community, and you are missing it. I want you to hold off on going back to your services at this point,” the mayor said. “We want you to follow the Safer at Home Advisory. I want you to contact your faith leaders to be in conversation with them, and I asked the faith leaders be in conversation with your elderly parishioners. Guide them and support them in putting safety first, and keeping them connected to church in other ways.”