On Wednesday, August 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano released a letter regarding changes in local mandates requiring the use of masks indoors. The letter reads as follows:
As we have seen in recent weeks, the trajectory of the pandemic has significantly worsened due to the spread of the Delta variant in our state. It is concerning to see the rate of infection and hospitalization begin to significantly rise, after we had seen so much progress against the pandemic in the past few months.
Given this new development, questions have arisen about the need to return to wearing masks indoors during all Church functions, including the celebration of Mass. These questions have taken on greater urgency in those locales where local authority, with the approval of the state, are requiring masks to be worn indoors at all public events.
Regarding the use of masks, I wish to provide you the following guidance:
- In the event that your local authorities mandate the return use of masks for all public indoor gatherings, it is my expectation that your parish will comply with the mandate. In such cases, you should inform the people of your parish to bring a mask for use whenever they enter any of your parish facilities, regardless of their vaccination status, until the local mandate is lifted.
- In those areas where local officials have not required the use of masks during indoor gatherings, I ask that you remind your people of the following:
- Those parishioners who are not vaccinated are required to wear a face mask in any of your parish facilities, including during the celebration of Mass;
- Those parishioners who are vaccinated are welcome, but not required, to wear masks in any of your parish facilities, including during the celebration of Mass.
To my knowledge, there has been no discussion of a return to mandatory social distancing or the reinstatement of the sanitary protocols we observed at the start of the pandemic. As such, there is no need to reinstate any of these measures.
I realize that there will be many mixed reactions to any return use of masks at Mass. However, from the start of the pandemic, we have committed ourselves to protect human life that is most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. We have also cooperated with state and local authorities to protect the common good. It is my hope and fervent prayer that these measures, where they are being mandated, will be short-lived as the effects of the Delta variant begin to recede.
Please be assured of my prayers for you and your leadership during these challenging and unpredictable times.