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Restrictions continue to ease at Mass

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SAN DIEGO — It’s fitting that the Church’s birthday this year was seen as the occasion of “rebirth” for the Church in San Diego. Pentecost, after all, is considered the Church’s birthday.

And, appropriate for the moment, faithful have cause to celebrate: fewer restrictions in indoor worshipping as the pandemic ebbs, and the vaccination rate grows.

Just before Pentecost, Bishop Robert McElroy acknowledged the symbolic importance of the day.

“As we approach the great feast of Pentecost, the new rebirth in our Church and society, I want to thank you for all that you have done in the past 15 months to serve your people through sacrifice, creativity and faith,” he wrote in a letter sent on May 20 to all the priests in the diocese.

In it, he further loosened the diocese’s COVID protocols for parishes in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Most of the guidelines were effective immediately, while others will not take effect until at least June 15, when California is scheduled to end its mask mandate and allow businesses to fully re-open.

Under the loosened guidelines:

* Face coverings are still required at Mass, but social distance between individuals and households can be reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet. An outdoor Mass option is encouraged.
* Congregational singing is permitted indoors, led by a maximum of two cantors and one accompanist. Larger choirs will be allowed after June 15.
* Communion is limited to the Body of Christ, received only in the hand. The Precious Blood will not be distributed until the First Sunday of Advent in late November.
* Holy water fonts should not be filled until September.
* The Offertory collection and the presentation of the gifts can be done as they were before the pandemic.
* The Sign of Peace will continue to contact-free and socially distanced.
* Only those who are vaccinated can take Communion to the sick and homebound.
* Meetings and events at parishes can resume on June 15 without size limitations.

As with previous diocesan guidelines, the bishop has left much to pastors’ discretion. This includes whether to begin using hymnals and worship aids again, whether to re-open “cry rooms,” and how to safely celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.

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