Catholics who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 will no longer be required to wear masks or socially distance inside local churches starting May 29, as the Archdiocese of Boston joins state officials in easing pandemic precautions amid rising vaccination rates and dropping case numbers.
When the restrictions drop, singing and choirs will once again be permitted, communion can return to normal, collections may be taken using a basket on a pole, food can be served at parish activities, and altar servers will be allowed to participate in Masses, the archdiocese said in a statement Thursday.
Church-goers will not be asked if they have been vaccinated.
“Parishes and pastors will not be policing the population,” the statement said. “Every parishioner and every family will be expected to make a sound, reasonable decision about when they are ready to take off their masks and be near other people. No pastor and no parish will be expected to ask people whether or not they have been vaccinated.”
The change applies to worship services and parish activities but not to schools and office spaces, which will be addressed in separate guidance later, according to the statement. Parishes will announce the change at Mass, in bulletins, and on websites, and accommodations will be made for those who aren’t ready to remove their masks or share the pews, the archdiocese said.
The archdiocese has not yet lifted its pandemic-related dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, and even when the dispensation is lifted, parishioners who feel sick will be encouraged to stay home, according to the statement. The archdiocese encouraged churches to continue streaming their Masses online.
The archdiocese also directed churches to make a general announcement anytime a COVID-positive person has attended Mass. It said regular disinfecting of surfaces inside churches will not be required, and hymnals and missalettes may be kept in the pews and used by worshippers.