Since March 2020 there has been a steady stream of directives from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the fitting celebration of the Sacred Liturgy as adapted according to the required mitigating standards for COVID-19 mandated by the state and local governments. With the pending lifting ofCOVID-19 restrictions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, it will soon be possible to celebrate the Eucharist and all the Sacraments with very few exceptions in the manner prior to the pandemic.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as of Monday, May 31, 2021, lifts all building sanitation, distancing and capacity restrictions. All parishes and institutions in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties are free to lift all building sanitation, distancing and capacity restrictions on Monday, May 31, 2021. However, the City of Philadelphia will continue to observe the current COVID-19 restrictions until Friday, June 11, 2021. All parishes and institutions in Philadelphia County are free to lift all building sanitation, distancing and capacity restrictions on Friday, June 11, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new guidance on the use of face coverings and masks as of Thursday, May 13, 2021. According to this guidance,
people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks or follow social-distancing restrictions in most indoor and outdoor settings, except as required by state and local laws or other regulations. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania automatically adopted the relaxed measures on Thursday, May 13, 2021.
Therefore, parishes and institutions in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties can freely comply with the relaxed measures with regard to face coverings/masks for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.
The CDC guidance on the use of face coverings and masks does not allow for an easy observance since they apply differently to different groups of people at the same time — those fully vaccinated and those not vaccinated. People are to be respectful of a person’s choice not to wear or to wear a face covering or mask in churches in the Archdiocese.
The non-use or use of a face covering or mask is not to be imposed unilaterally in churches throughout the Archdiocese. To promote inclusion and reduce fear, in accord with the CDC guidance, those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a face covering or a mask. Those who are not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering or a mask in the nave. If a face covering or mask is worn, it is to be removed before the reception of the Body of Christ at the Communion of the Mass.
The faithful continue to be dispensed by the Archbishop from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until further notice. The faithful are encouraged persuasively to return to in-person Sunday Mass and the celebration of all the Sacraments, especially for those who are in good health.
For the spiritual and pastoral benefit of the faithful, several weeks notice will be provided as to when the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will be reinstated by the Archbishop. Even when the obligation is restored, the faithful, as always, are excused legitimately from the obligation when they are seriously sick or caring for someone who is.
All liturgical ministers—altar servers (vested), lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (if needed) - should exercise their ministries as usual in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy without any exceptions or restrictions. Liturgical singing can take place without any restrictions. All fitting instruments may be used without any restrictions. Cantors, quartets and choirs may be employed without any restrictions. Hymnals and worship aids may be used without any restrictions.
Mass is to be celebrated according to what is described in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, without exceptions or restrictions, other than what is noted here:
There may be the procession of Gifts during the Offertory. The Invitation and the use of the Sign of Peace continues to be suspended until further notice. Alternate signs of peace should not be arbitrarily introduced.
Holy Communion is to be distributed during the Communion Rite of each Mass and not at any other time. The faithful are free to receive Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue without stigma. There is no need for the Communion minister or the Communicant to sanitize during the distribution and reception of Holy Communion.