“We had no choice, since wise health guidelines required us to close our church buildings,” he wrote. Once the archdiocese reopened parishes for Mass, the parishes “rose to the occasion with scrupulous cleaning, sanitation, ventilation, distancing, and restrictions,” he wrote, noting that parishioners “gradually began to return.”
“No more gradual about it! It’s time to get back to Sunday Mass!” Cardinal Dolan wrote on Wednesday.
The recent Paschal Triduum emphasized the importance of the Mass, which itself is the renewal of the Triduum, he said.
“We recognize Jesus at Mass and Holy Communion. We enter again the eternal, infinite mystery of His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Every Sunday Mass is a renewal of the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.
A spokesman for the archdiocese clarified to CNA that the Sunday obligation, where Catholics are required by canon law to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation except in grave cases where they cannot, was never suspended in the archdiocese.
While public Masses were suspended by the archdiocese for several months due to the spread of COVID-19, the Sunday obligation was in place once churches reopened for Mass, the spokesman noted. However, the usual “grave” reasons for Catholics not to attend Sunday Mass – such as sickness or being in danger of the COVID-19 pandemic – still applied, and Catholics were free to decline to attend Mass for "a serious reason."
“But, now that more and more people are being vaccinated, and people are engaging in more and more public activities, the Cardinal is reminding them of the sacred obligation to attend Sunday Mass,” the spokesman stated.
The archdiocese’s office of the vicar general in January and again in February reminded priests that the Sunday obligation was in place for Catholics.
“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, Catholics are obliged to participate in the Mass and to refrain from unnecessary work and all spiritually-distracting activities in conformity with the code of canon law,” vicar general Fr. Joseph LaMorte wrote in a Jan. 18, 2021 letter to priests.
A February letter from the vicar general’s office stated that dispensation from the Sunday obligation for lay Catholics was “a recurring question from many priests.” Cardinal Dolan never lifted the Sunday obligation, the office clarified.
“The obligation for Sunday Mass is always there. It’s a divine law. We didn’t make it up and we can’t dispense from it,” the office instructed.
Rather, the pandemic was grave enough reason for Catholics to not attend Mass, the office said, but as more Catholics are “socializing” now, “we need to encourage them to come back.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“We are facing the serious issue of Mass attendance which is at 50% of what it was a year ago,” the office stated, noting that pastors could consider including “catechetical bulletin inserts,” for evangelization, “handed out on Sunday and shared with those at home.”