Duca to lift dispensation, but mask mandate stays

Staff Report

Directives issued by Bishop Michael Duca will bring one major change and keep another intact for Catholics throughout the Dioceses of Baton Rouge.

Bishop Michael Duca of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

Duca plans to lift the dispensation on Sunday, June 6, the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Meanwhile, the mask mandate will remain intact.

The action comes after Gov. John Bel Edwards made revisions last week to state guidelines on masking and other COVID policies.

“Most of the guidelines the governor has modified deal with the wearing of masks in gatherings outside and inside of buildings,” the bishop said.

“Each of these is modified depending on the amount and possibility of physical distancing.

“Of particular importance for gathering in church is the guideline that allows the option to gather at full capacity for Mass if masks are worn,” he said. “Because it is my desire to be able to invite more of our parishioners back to Mass and have a place for them as they return, I have decided that we will keep the mandate to wear masks and begin to lessen the physical distancing as more parishioners return to church.”

The directives on masks will allow Catholic churches to resume Mass at 100 percent capacity for the first time since March 2020.

He did, however, assure Catholics that they should continue to consider themselves exempt from the obligation to attend Mass “if they are unvaccinated, or if they have underlying conditions which make the virus more dangerous, or if they are simply fearful.”

Many churches already are using every pew, especially where they have a large church and a smaller congregation, Duca said.

He encouraged pastors to open the pews but recommended parishioners continue social-distancing until they find their comfort zones.

Duca also issued caution to the faithful.

“In considering these new guidelines, I want us to be aware that COVID is still spreading, even if at low and stable levels, and this should be a part of our consideration,” he said.

“To pretend that the danger is completely over could sabotage all the efforts and progress we have made up to this point.

“Yet with this caution acknowledged, I want to offer for the first time since this pandemic began a more proactive process to bring us all back together in our churches again.”

Duca recommended Catholics in the diocese check with their church parish for more information on how the new directives will be implemented.