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Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston lifts most COVID-19 mandates for mass

WHEELING, W.Va. — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is lifting most COVID-19 mandates for mass including mask-wearing and seating, beginning the weekend of June 19 and 20.

The diocese (DWC), in a letter by Bishop Mark Brennan, made the announcement on Thursday regarding the celebration of mass and other liturgical celebrations to go along with the date of June 20 with West Virginia’s mask mandate is set to expire.

The general directives from the Bishop include permitting open seating in the church. The previous directive mandating strict social distancing, seating faithful in every other pew and six feet apart, and other limitations on church capacity are lifted.

The diocese said pastors are encouraged to set aside a portion of the seating in the church to accommodate those who prefer to maintain physical distancing – in this section, only every other pew would be utilized and those seated in this section would need to wear masks and remain six-feet apart from others.

In accordance with state guidelines, the requirement to wear appropriate facial coverings by non-vaccinated parishioners is lifted effective June 19 and June 20, the diocese said. No person entering the church for mass or other liturgical services will be required to wear a facial covering.

Brennan said it is expected that all parish communities have now restored their full liturgical schedule of weekend masses, daily masses and other sacramental celebrations as existed prior to March 2020. Churches should continue to be open for private prayer throughout the day and are encouraged to resume their pre-pandemic schedule of hours, Brennan said.

Inside the church, parish baptismal fonts, those with running water or still, non-moving water, may be filled and used at the discretion of the pastor. Holy Water stoups may also be filled, however, they must be cleaned and disinfected regularly at least once per week for still water fonts and stoups, the diocese said.

The diocese is encouraging everyone entering a building to wash hands or use hand sanitizer regularly. Churches are asked to provide sanitizer to all upon entering. All churches and parish facilities should be cleaned at least one time per day when open to the public, the diocese said Thursday.

In terms of virus tracking, the contact information for those attending liturgical services and gatherings is no longer required. In cases where a positive COVID-19 case or exposure is identified within the parish, all parishioners are to be notified as well as the local health department, the diocese said.

During the pandemic, some parishes have restricted outside access to their churches in order to “funnel” the faithful into certain primary entrances for the purpose of contact tracing and hand sanitization. This practice is no longer necessary as long as parishes are able to provide sanitizing stations at each entrance, the diocese said.

As announced on June 2 by the Bishops of the Province of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Washington, the dispensation of Sunday and Holy Days Mass obligation has been lifted beginning June 26 and 27.

The diocese gave more particular directives for mass HERE.

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