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As public Masses and the celebration of the sacraments resume in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, each parish has specific guidelines and safety precautions the faithful must follow, but there are some universal guidelines and reminders for parishioners no matter their parish.

The Governor’s Office recently announced the relaxing of some state mandates that have been in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that it may be possible to ease some of the restrictions that have been in effect in public places, shopping venues, and businesses.

  • Bishop Mark has waived the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days until further notice.
  • There should be no hand-shaking during the sign of peace nor at any other time.
  • The Precious Blood will be not offered until further notice.
  • Faithful are encouraged to support their parish through online giving or by mailing their weekly offertory or dropping it off at their parish.
  • The live broadcast of the Sunday Mass airs every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. on WATM ABC 23 and at 9:00 p.m. on Atlantic Broadband channel 9.

The following directives/protocols take effect with the vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost, that is, the evening of Saturday, May 22, 2021.

Masks

  • Individuals, including priests, deacons, and liturgical ministers are no longer required to wear masks when in church or other church facilities.
  • Pastors and parishioners should respect the return of others to regular worship at Mass and other liturgical and non-liturgical functions. No one should inquire of anyone as to whether or not they are vaccinated.
  • Those who are not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in church, both for their protection and that of others.
  • Parents should make an informed decision about whether their children participating in liturgical ministries need to continue wearing masks.
  • Parishes should have a supply of disposable masks available for individuals who need one.
  • Persons who are feeling ill should stay home.
  • Masks are recommended when a priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister brings Holy Communion to shut-ins, especially when it is known that the recipient is ill.
  • Parents should make an informed decision about whether their children participating in school Masses need to continue wearing masks.

Seating Arrangements

  • The use of all pews in churches is now permitted.
  • Spacing between pews is discontinued.
  • The practice of reserved seating at Mass is discontinued.
  • Choirs may be seated together in their usual place.
  • Altar servers, lectors, song leaders, and musicians may be seated in their usual places as they resume their functions within the church.

Sanitizing/Cleaning

  • Wiping/sanitizing pews and other hard surfaces in between Masses is discontinued.
  • Hand sanitizer is to be available at the church entrance for parishioners.
  • Hand sanitizer should be available for use by clergy and extraordinary ministers in the sanctuary and near the places where Holy Communion is distributed.
  • Hand sanitizer should be available for use by the people as they approach to receive Holy Communion.
  • Church cleaning should return to regular protocol. Those who are responsible for cleaning should utilize disposable gloves and sanitizer for their individual safety.

Worship Aids and Various Liturgical Actions

  • Hymnals and other worship aids may be placed in the pews.
  • Holy Water is permitted to be placed in the font(s).
  • Entrance and closing processions are now permitted.
  • A verbal exchange of the sign of peace is permitted among the faithful.
  • Collection baskets may once again be utilized.
  • Although the Holy Eucharist continues to be offered at Mass, the distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful is not permitted.
  • Clergy are to receive Holy Communion by intinction when concelebrating.
  • Clergy and extraordinary ministers should use hand sanitizer before distributing Holy Communion.
  • The faithful are recommended to receive Holy Communion in the hand. However the right to receive on the tongue is to be respected.
  • The faithful are encouraged to sanitize their hands before and after receiving Holy Communion.
  • Clergy and extraordinary ministers, at their discretion, may continue wearing masks when distributing Holy Communion.
  • Permission remains in effect for priests to trinate on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and to binate on weekdays.
  • The use of confessionals is permitted. If there is inadequate ventilation within the confessional, priests may arrange for another space in the church for hearing confessions.
  • Clergy may greet the people before or after Mass, but should refrain from shaking hands.

For the latest information, watch Proclaim! every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23; sign up for Proclaim! e-news updates; and register for text message/email alerts from the diocese via Flocknote.

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