The following guidance was sent by Monsignor Joseph P. LaMorte to the priests of the archdiocese.
On June 15, the governor announced that COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted throughout New York State. This was met with great enthusiasm.
New York States’ health guidance and industry specific guidelines – including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing – are now optional for businesses and other organizations, including houses of worship.
Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal Centers for Disease Control guidance. As per the state’s implementation of the recent CDC strategies, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals. In addition, the state’s health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, and pre-K to grade 12 schools, per the CDC.
Pastors may now take the following course of action:
- Parishes are no longer required to conduct additional cleanings and disinfections. While such practices are beneficial to church facilities in themselves and are well-received and encouraged, they are now optional for all churches and parishes.
- Masks are no longer required to be worn during church services for those who are vaccinated. Churches should continue to maintain a “physical distance section” for those individuals who wish to utilize such accommodations regardless of their vaccination status. However, as I have clarified, there should be no designation of attendees to such an area based on vaccination status.
- To reiterate, there are no capacity restrictions on houses of worship.
- The children’s liturgy of the word may resume at this time.
- The sign of peace may now be offered again, even though our people seem to do so or not spontaneously.
As a practical matter, not everyone will be ready for an immediate return to normal activities. As such, to ensure our people recognize that their safety is our paramount concern, we recommend the following practices continue:
- Holy water fonts should continue to remain empty.
- Communion from the chalice should not resume right now. Continue to encourage your communicants to receive in the hand rather than on the tongue.