As Catholics across the Diocese of Cleveland anticipate the end of the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation – effective the weekend of June 5-6 – they also can expect of most pandemic-imposed safety guidelines to be eliminated.
Beginning on June 2, face masks and social distancing no longer will be required in churches throughout the eight-county diocese. However, diocesan officials strongly suggest that those not yet vaccinated or who are otherwise vulnerable continue to wear a face mask. They also urge that respect be shown to those following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local entities and those who, for personal reasons, choose to continue wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing.
Also, the use of all seating areas will be permitted and it no longer will be necessary to have the deep cleaning procedures that were adopted last year. However, a general cleaning of the church and other public places should take place on a regular schedule, with special attention given to frequently used surfaces such as door handles, restroom fixtures, etc. Hand sanitizer should remain available at church entrances and in other public spaces.
Pastors were informed that the use of holy water fonts, liturgical processions at the beginning and end of liturgies, offertory processions and offertory collections also will be permitted once again, beginning on June 2.
The sign of peace among the faithful will be permitted, but it should be exchanged without physical contact between persons who are not of the same household or family.
The use of liturgical ministers – including altar servers, lectors, ushers, musicians, cantors, choirs and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion – also will be permitted, effective June 2.
Although the reception of Communion continues to be permitted either in the hand or on the tongue, distribution of the Precious Blood remains suspended until further notice.
Diocesan officials said care should be taken to continue following CDC, state and local guidelines with regard to activities with children who have not yet been vaccinated fully. Also, pastors should ask the faithful who are not feeling well to remain at home.
Visitation to the homebound, hospitalized and nursing homes is permitted, with a reminder to exercise good hygiene and to refrain from visiting if not feeling well.
In addition, diocesan officials remind the faithful that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation remains in effect for those who are ill, have significant health risk factors or care for someone who is immune compromised or ill, as well as those who have significant fear or anxiety of contracting coronavirus in a large group of persons.
“Please continue to pray for a complete end to the pandemic, for all those who died from the pandemic and for those who have lost loved ones, employment or have been adversely impacted by the pandemic,” said Bishop Edward Malesic.
He also extended his gratitude to the clergy and others who “have worked tirelessly to continue the mission of Christ throughout the many hardships of the pandemic.”