RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — On Friday, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond lifted most of its coronavirus protocols — including social distancing and face covering mandates — for masses, liturgical celebrations, and social gatherings.
“Although the pandemic is not over and we recognize that some concerns remain, it is now time to weave a course that is reasonable but also allows better access to the sacraments and liturgies,” said Most Rev. Barry C. Knestout, bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.
As of Friday, May 28, the Diocese of Richmond says the following changes will go into effect with regard to liturgies and sacraments:
- The Diocese of Richmond will continue to grant dispensation from attending mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation until further notice.
- Capacity limits and social distancing requirements are now lifted, per Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 79.
- Parishes are encouraged to resume their regular mass schedules.
- Parishes are encouraged to continue livestreaming masses and posting written and printed homilies for the benefit of those who are unvaccinated, homebound, or infirmed.
- Parishes are no longer required to sanitize and clean between masses, but they are encouraged to continue cleaning church buildings and pews similar to the way they did before the pandemic.
- Communion from the cup is only available to the priest until further notice.
- Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist may distribute Communion, but everyone distributing should sanitize their hands beforehand.
- Communicants still have the discretion to choose between receiving on the tongue or in the hand.
- Parishioners are asked to follow their individual parish’s procedures for communion.
- Face coverings:
- Fully-vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face covering in any setting.
- People age five and older who are either not fully-vaccinated or not vaccinated should wear a face covering for any mass or liturgical celebration.
- Nobody should supply proof or ask about a parishioner’s vaccination status.
- Online registration systems to attend liturgical celebrations have ended since social distancing requirements have been lifted.
- Offering hand sanitizer is still encouraged at parishes
- Certain liturgical basics that were suspended or modified are now restored:
- Choirs and congregations may resume singing.
- Parish baptismal and holy water fonts may be reintroduced, at the pastor’s discretion.
- Worship aids, bulletins, collection baskets, and procession of the offertory and gifts may resume.
“While specific guidance has been given regarding certain expectations, pastors are being given discretion for implementation for the various needs of a parish community on the local level,” the Diocese of Richmond said in a reference sheet for updated pandemic guidelines.