Public Masses may begin again in Delaware with daily Mass June 1 and weekend Masses June 6-7 as the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington is reopening churches in accordance with ease of restrictions aimed at limiting spread of coronavirus in the state.
The diocese encompasses two states and officials announced earlier this week that Masses may resume in Maryland with social-distancing guidelines in place beginning May 25.
Bishop Malooly on March 15 announced no public Masses would be held in the diocese and dispensed of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass in the effort to limit the spread of the disease. Regulations limiting large gatherings were adopted in both states and the dispensation was intended to conform to those guidelines.
Msgr. Steven Hurley, vicar general for the diocese, said the bishop’s dispensation will continue until further notice and Catholics should continue to maintain safety precautions. People in at-risk categories and anyone feeling ill should continue to stay at home and pastors have been encouraged to continue livestreaming services, he said.
“People should continue to maintain safety precautions,” Msgr. Hurley said. He also said parishioners should check with their parishes to verify local Mass dates and times.
The diocese had been seeking clarification from Delaware Gov. John Carney, who issued revised guidance for churches and houses of worship. Previous restrictions including those on distribution of communion have been removed in the revised guidance documents provided by the governor’s office, Msgr. Hurley said.
Msgr. Hurley said the diocese wants churchgoers to maintain six feet of separation and wear masks among other precautions. He said priests, deacons and Eucharistic ministers will administer communion and each parish will have a plan on how to distribute it.
Gatherings must be limited to 30 percent of stated fire code occupancy, according to Carney, and strict social distancing must be maintained. People at high risk, including those over 65-years-old, and anyone who is sick should not attend in-person services, he said. Anyone 13-years-old or older must wear a face covering and children 2-years-old and younger should not wear a face covering due to risk of suffocation.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced May 13 loosening of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic in the state, but still emphasized “Safer at Home.” Effective May 15 at 5 p.m., he said, churches could begin holding indoor services with a maximum attendance of up to 50 percent capacity and with everyone following physical distancing and hygiene protocols including wearing masks and sanitizing hands.
Msgr. Hurley said Bishop Malooly held an online Zoom meeting with pastors May 19 to explain regulations and precautions. He said the priests welcomed news of reopening.
“The pastors are so excited to get back to having public Masses,” Msgr. Hurley said.