In coordination with the Archdiocese of Hartford, parishes of the Diocese of Norwich may resume the public celebration of Sunday Mass, including any anticipated Mass(es) on Saturday evening, beginning the weekend of July 4 and 5. Please note: the limitation on gatherings for religious worship, as amended by Executive Order No. 7SS of Governor Lamont, remains in effect. By this order, indoor gatherings are limited to 25% of capacity of the indoor space or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is smaller. The Chancery will notify you if this limit changes.
As noted in a memorandum dated June 3, 2020, these limits presume strict adherence to social distancing guidelines which require six (6) feet of distance between individuals and households. Therefore, given the size and layout of different churches, the physical capacity for your particular building(s) may, in reality, be lower than the stated numerical limits. Several pastors have therefore expressed concern that they may find it difficult to accommodate everyone who wishes to attend Sunday Mass. I would therefore encourage you to consider the following:
- The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until further notice. You may wish to encourage parishioners who are able to attend Weekday Mass to continue to do so in lieu of attending on Sundays in order to allow those who cannot attend during the week, the opportunity to attend on the weekend. Sunday Masses should continue to be livestreamed to the extent possible.
- You may wish to consider using some form of registration or ticketing to allow people to reserve space at a particular Mass. There are various ways in which this may be accomplished, each with its benefits and weaknesses, including through the use of technological means, however, it is important to remember that not all your parishioners have computers or access to the internet. If you use a registration system of some type, provision must be made for those parishioners who cannot register online or by email.
- It will be important to enlist the assistance of ushers or other volunteers who are not in vulnerable categories in order to keep track of and maintain these limits as well as to assist people who may need help finding a seat.
The Guidelines for the Restoration of Public Worship that were sent to you on May 27 likewise remain in effect. Please use the next two weeks to: (1) review the guidelines with particular attention to their application to Sunday Masses, (2) develop a parish plan for resuming Sunday Mass, including how you will ensure compliance with the stated limitations on worship gatherings, and (3) communicate that plan to your people so that they can know what to expect in your parish(es) as we move forward.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we try to work through the various facets and challenges of resuming the fullness of our public worship. Thank you also for the good work you have done and will continue to do as we seek to gather again with our people to offer fitting worship to God. Please be assured of my prayers for you, your valued priestly ministry and for the people you serve.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Bishop of Norwich