With Philadelphia ending its indoor and outdoor mask mandate today, face coverings are no longer required in archdiocesan parishes and institutions located in the city.
The archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship announced the update in a June 11 statement, noting that “as of today, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health no longer requires those vaccinated or not vaccinated to wear a mask or face covering indoors or outdoors, except for a few settings.”
(Related: Philadelphia joins suburbs, lifts most COVID restrictions for churches)
At the same time, according to the statement, “people who are not vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated are still strongly recommended to wear masks indoors or outdoors when around others,” although they are “no longer required to do so in the City of Philadelphia.”
A June 2 directive from the office stressed people should be “respectful of a person’s choice” whether or not to wear a face mask in churches.
Today’s move is the latest in the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, which were first put into place in March 2020. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relaxed measures on May 13, while Philadelphia deferred doing so until June 2, with the city moving up its initial target date of June 11.
The disparity in dates placed suburban and city parishes on different timetables for rolling back their social distancing measures. That gap has been eliminated with the June 11 announcement.
Effective as of last weekend’s Masses, all parishes in the five-county archdiocesan area were permitted to remove pew barriers and to permit full capacity and close proximity in seating, while ending the routine cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese are still dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation. However, a recently launched archdiocesan initiative, “Nothing Compares to Being There,” has signaled that the dispensation’s days are numbered, and in-person worship marked by full participation will overtake the year-long practice of livestreamed Masses and spiritual communions.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that after spiking dramatically in January and February of this year, COVID-19 deaths have declined sharply in the U.S.
Johns Hopkins University reports that some 3.78 million have died from the disease, with almost 175 million cases recorded, and more than two billion vaccination doses administered to date.
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