By MARK PATTISON
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — Priests of the Archdiocese of Mobile began celebrating their first public Masses in almost two months on May 12 as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey amended a “Safer-at-Home” order which originally limited gatherings to under 10 people due to COVID-19.
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi implemented social distancing and safety guidelines. A full list can be found at mobarch.org.
A general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in effect.
“We all look forward to the resumption of public Masses in our archdiocese next Tuesday, May 12. At the same time, we must remain aware that the coronavirus is a very real and present danger. Our people continue to get sick and to die from this scourge. We cannot be complacent in our efforts to foster the safety of neighbor,” Archbishop Rodi wrote in a letter to priests of the archdiocese.
A handful of other U.S.. dioceses that have not celebrated Masses for roughly two months since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic have also taken the first steps to reopening their parishes for Mass.
One archdiocese announcing the resumption of Masses was the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. Even so, there are caveats: No more than 25 at any Mass, social distancing will still be in effect, and not every parish will be prepared to restart a Mass schedule effective May 9.
Even so, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland called this “great news” in a video posted May 5 on Facebook and Twitter, asking Catholics to “have great understanding and patience at this time as we begin to transition to some level of normalcy in the life of our church.” The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still in effect.
When the Archdiocese of Denver canceled public Masses March 13, “we did not foresee the suspension lasting as long as it has,” said a May 7 letter from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez. Denver, too, reopened Masses May 9 “in a limited and gradual way,” saying “Extreme caution will be used, that strict physical distancing will be observed, and that pastors will consult the guidance issued by state and local health authorities. This, of course, will mean that access to the Masses celebrated over the next few months will be very limited,” they added.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa jointly announced a resumption of Masses effective May 18. “Patience and a spirit of charity toward ourselves and our neighbors, particularly the vulnerable, will greatly assist in a well-ordered transition back to public Mass,” said a May 6 announcement by the two dioceses.
In the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, churches were to be at no more than 25 percent occupancy when Masses resumed May 11. Masses will be held in churches only on weekday mornings; no Sunday Mass resumption was announced.
The Diocese of Austin, Texas, also gave the go-ahead to resume public Masses. One parish responded by holding an evening Mass May 5, according to KBTX, a television station in the diocese.
Deacon Michael Beauvais of St. Anthony Parish in Bryan, about 100 miles from Austin, told KBTX that the Mass obligation was still in abeyance. “We’re not sure how everyone feels and ultimately each member of our parish has to make a prudential judgment. Do I feel comfortable doing this?”
— Contributing to this story were Rob Herbst, editor of The Catholic Week, and Katie Scott, special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.
By MARK PATTISON