*Article courtesy of dioknox.org

Citing positive developments in the fight against COVID-19 around the country and in East Tennessee, Bishop Richard F. Stika is restoring the general obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, beginning on Pentecost weekend, May 22-23.

“The situation appears to be getting much better, and the faithful in our diocese have shown a genuine desire to return to Mass, even when the dispensation was still in place. I believe it’s now time to continue this return to the way we do things in the Church—and reinstate the obligation, with some provisions that will remain in place for the time being,” Bishop Stika said.

In a decree issued on May 5, Bishop Stika indicated that restoration of the Sunday Obligation “does not apply to those who are ill, those who have reason to believe they were recently exposed to COVID-19 or another serious or contagious illness, those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or a nursing facility, those who care for the sick, the infirm, and the homebound, those who are unable to attend Mass through no fault of their own, those with underlying health conditions or in a high-risk category, and those who have significant fear or anxiety of COVID-19 exposure by attending Mass.”

The decree also states that “the social distance mandate within the pews throughout the entire church will be reduced to three feet” and that “every pew may be used for the seating of parishioners.”

The requirement to wear a protective facemask during Mass remains in effect, and might be lifted the weekend of July 31-Aug 1. The mask restriction remains in place due to the “understanding that the pandemic conditions could change over the next three months and that I must remain open to amending the requirements of this decree.”

“We’re not back to normal, I realize that,” Bishop Stika said. “We’ve made great strides in safely dealing with the COVID threat, and I believe that this is the next prudent step. I’m personally grateful for the parishes, their pastors and priests, and the parish volunteers who have worked so hard, under very difficult circumstances, to make sure that our churches have been clean and safe during all of this.

“I’m also appreciative to all of the faithful, our parishioners, who have been patient, kind, and understanding. I realize this has been a challenge, but it is also a true testament to the firmness of your faith.”

Bishop Stika suspended public Masses in the diocese, effective March 20, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Public Masses were reinstated with COVID safety protocols and the lifting of the general obligation on the weekend of Pentecost, May 30-31, 2020.

Read Bishop Stika’s Decree