While the obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday Mass will resume this Sunday, Aug. 15 – with the exception of those who have a health risk or are a primary caregiver – it is not merely back to “normal” for faithful of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

As since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, distribution of the Precious Blood is still suspended, as are exchanges of the Sign of Peace at Mass.

But because of new restrictions by the City of Philadelphia Aug. 12 requiring the use of face masks indoors to mitigate spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Catholics attending Mass in churches in the city will see some changes this weekend.

Guidelines issued to local clergy by the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship on Friday, Aug. 13 “strongly encourage” people to wear a face mask during the Mass “whether vaccinated or not, in the body of the church.”

Vaccinations will not be offered in church, nor will proof of vaccination be checked for congregants.

Priests, deacons and liturgical ministers should not wear a mask in the church sanctuary. But people should remove their face mask before receiving holy Communion, according to the guidelines.

They come ahead of a major initiative next month by the archdiocese to encourage Catholics to return to Mass, titled “Nothing Compares to Being There.”

It is described as an “opportunity for parishes to issue a heartfelt invitation to parishioners to return to the in-person celebration of the Mass after the many long months of the pandemic,” according to the website. “It draws upon the central truth of our Christian faith that Jesus Christ encounters and saves us in the flesh, through in-person presence.”

The Aug. 13 guidelines emphasize that the Catholic liturgy – “the praise and worship of God by his people — is the greatest work of the church carried out in all the parishes and institutions throughout the archdiocese.”

But the guidelines also state the importance of church authorities and all Catholics to take “reasonable measures … to mitigate continually the spread of COVID-19.”

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Read Archbishop Nelson J. Perez’s letter to Catholics (in English and Spanish) on the “Nothing Compares to Being There” initiative.