Atlanta archdiocese to end Sunday Mass dispensation

Archbishop Hartmayer Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM, Conv., was installed as archbishop of Atlanta on May 6, 2020./ CNA file photo

This week the archdiocese of Atlanta announced an end date to the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. 

In a letter to parishioners in the archdiocese, Archbishop Hartmayer said that he “believes it is time to begin to bring more people physically back to church.” 

Citing the wide availability of vaccines and the previous year’s “extraordinary” steps to combat Covid-19, the Archbishop said he finds it “an appropriate time to take our next step forward to full reopening of our churches.”

In his April 29 letter to the public, Hartmayer said that the dispensation will expire on May 22. “While the general dispensation will lift,” he said, “I am putting into place some exceptions for certain circumstances.

The letter outlined the specific persons for whom the dispensation is still applicable according to canon law. 

Those who are ill or who would be significantly compromised by Covid-19 because of underlying health conditions were told by the Archbishop that they may continue use the dispensation.

The list of dispensed persons also included those experiencing flu symptoms, pregnant women, anyone exposed to Covid-19, and those 65 years of age or older, citing the CDC’s recommendation of high-risk individuals. 

Those who miss Mass through no fault of their own and those with significant anxiety of becoming ill at mass are dispensed from the obligation as well. 

Hartmayer wrote that those “legitimately dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass are still to observe the Lord’s Day by participating in a broadcast of the Sunday Mass or by spending time in prayer or meditating on Scripture, either individually or as a family.”

The Archbishop wrote that masks and social distancing will still be required in the parishes and emphasized that outdoor masses remain a possibility to accommodate higher numbers of the faithful. He said that people should remain reasonably distanced from those who are outside their family. 

Hartmayer thanked all clergy and employees of the diocese for their creativity and dedication during the lockdowns.

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