Detroit archdiocese to restore Sunday Mass obligation in March

Detroit cathedral Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

Most Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit will again be obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation starting March 14.

Detroit, along with every U.S. diocese, suspended public liturgies last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit dispensed all Catholics from their Sunday obligation March 13, 2020.

"In allowing the general dispensation to expire, we welcome back to Mass all Catholics who have already been engaged in other activities that would present a similar or greater risk of exposure, such as eating out at restaurants, traveling, partaking in non-essential shopping, and widening one's circle of contacts," Archbishop Vigneron wrote in a Feb. 9 letter

"These individuals should also prepare to return to Mass in recognition of its preeminence in our lives as Catholics."

The general dispensation from the obligation to assist at Sunday Mass was originally set to expire Feb. 17, Ash Wednesday, but Vigneron extended it until March 13, Detroit Catholic reported.

Though the general dispensation will expire, certain particular dispensations will be granted, Vigneron said. Particular dispensations will be granted to those with underlying conditions or in a high-risk category; those exhibiting flu-like symptoms; those who have good reason to think they might be asymptomatic of a contagious illness (e.g., they were in recent contact with someone who tested positive for a contagious illness such as COVID or influenza); those who care for the sick, homebound, or infirmed; pregnant women; those 65 or older; those who cannot attend Mass through no fault of their own (e.g., no Mass is offered, they are infirmed, or, while wanting to go, they are prevented for some reason you cannot control (e.g., their ride did not show up, the church was at capacity)); and those who have significant fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass.

Churches in the archdiocese will remain limited to 50% capacity, and mask and social distancing requirements will remain.

Vigneron acknowledged and thanked parishes for their efforts to stream Mass online in the past year, but cautioned that watching a broadcast of Mass "cannot become the norm."

"God did not come to us virtually. He came to us - and continues to come to us - in the flesh. As Catholics, unmediated contact with the Real Presence of the flesh and blood of Our Lord in offering this sacrifice to the Father is irreplaceable and essential," he wrote.

"It is during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that the saving death and resurrection of Jesus is made present to us, our covenant with Our Lord is renewed, and God, in the person of Jesus Christ, comes to us and makes himself truly present for us in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is an irreplaceable gift; a foretaste of Heaven itself."

COVID-19 case rates have dropped throughout most of the country as vaccination rates have reached an estimated 10% overall.

The first US diocese to reinstate the Sunday Mass obligation amid the pandemic is believed to be Sioux Falls. On Aug. 17, 2020, Bishop Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls changed the dispensation to apply only to those at increased risk for severe illness and those responsible for their care.

Some dioceses have reinstated the Sunday obligation, only to lift it again amid rising coronavirus cases.

The six dioceses of Wisconsin lifted the Sunday dispensation in September 2020, but just two weeks later, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay reinstated it in his diocese, due to sharply rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area.

Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse also reversed course and announced that he had decided to keep the dispensation in place for his diocese.

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