Six dioceses in Baltimore, Washington provinces reinstate Sunday obligation

Lori Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore delivers a homily at the Mass for the bicentennial of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31, 2021 | © 2021 Catholic Review Media. Photo: Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Six Catholic dioceses in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware will be lifting the dispensation from the Sunday obligation beginning June 26-27.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, June 2, the bishops of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Province of Baltimore – which includes the dioceses of Wheeling-Charleston, Richmond, Arlington, and Wilmington as well as the Baltimore archdiocese – welcomed the faithful back to Mass.

“We welcome and encourage the Faithful to return to full in-person participation of the Sunday Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith,” the bishops stated.

They announced they were “lifting the dispensation of the Sunday and Holy Days Mass obligation.” The bishops cited a continued decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19, as well as the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The bishops added that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days “does not apply” to the sick, those who believe they have been exposed to a “serious or contagious illness,” the homebound, or “those with serious underlying health conditions.” Safety measures at parishes will remain in place until altered or revoked by the local bishop.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory is the Archbishop of Washington, while Archbishop William Lori is the Archbishop of Baltimore. The other bishops who issued the joint statement included Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, and Bishop William Francis Malooly, apostolic administrator of the Wilmington diocese.

All U.S. dioceses had suspended public Masses by the end of March 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, but all dioceses eventually resumed celebration of Masses. In August 2020, the Diocese of Sioux Falls in South Dakota was the first diocese to lift the general dispensation from the Sunday obligation.

Other dioceses have recently lifted the dispensation from the obligation for the faithful, with exceptions including for the sick, caregivers, and those at high risk from COVID-19.

New Jersey bishops recently announced they were lifting the dispensation, beginning on June 5-6, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Several dioceses in upstate New York, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Ogdensburg, are also reinstating the Sunday obligation beginning the weekend of June 5-6.

Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana said that the Sunday obligation would resume in his diocese beginning on June 12.

The Diocese of Spokane also is reinstating the Sunday obligation on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

Bishop Thomas Daly said in his May 26 letter to the faithful of his diocese, “It is most fitting that the obligation will be reinstated on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This will conclude the Year of the Eucharist in the Diocese of Spokane and I trust that it will inaugurate a renewed sense of appreciation for this Sacred Gift as we go forward.”

“God does not need to be worshipped. We, however, need to worship God out of a profound sense of gratitude for all the gifts He has given to us,” he stated. “The obligation to attend Mass should not be seen as a burden but rather an act of love for the Lord.”

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