PORTLAND — Effective Monday, June 1, the Diocese of Portland is allowing Maine Catholic churches to hold public Masses with restrictions and safeguards in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We are, of course, anxious to return to our churches and have the opportunity to celebrate Mass,” said Bishop Robert Deeley in a news release. “We have been preparing for the last few weeks for a safe restoration of Mass in accord with the guidelines of the CDC. There are a lot of things involved, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep people safe and fulfill the mission of the Church.”

All public Masses were temporarily suspended on March 18 due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in place, and the extensive list of live-streamed Masses being offered at churches across the state will continue as most parishioners won’t be able to attend in person due to the capacity restrictions.

“Some of the restrictions may seem to be too cautious for the faithful who wish to return to public Masses at this time,” said the bishop. “However, ensuring the safety and health of our clergy, employees, students, volunteers, parishioners, and the greater community remains our top priority.”

Action plans and registration procedures are being developed at each parish, but there are guidelines that must be followed at all Maine churches:

• No more than 50 people may be in attendance at any Mass. That includes the priest, lector, cantor and other church personnel.

• A registration process for parishioners who want to attend Mass in person must be established at each church/parish to ensure the restricted attendance capacity is not exceeded.

• Anyone from outside of Maine who has not quarantined for 14 days in Maine prior to Mass may not attend.

• Masks must be worn by those attending Mass to protect against the projection of respiratory particles.

• Pew seating arrangements will be established to keep each person at least 6 feet from the next person.

• Communion will be offered with social-distancing guidelines, including 6 feet of space between recipients. The distribution of wine is still suspended. Holy water fonts will remain empty for the time being.

• Seats and pews will be sanitized after each Mass. Every other pew will be used and the flow of foot traffic will go in one direction if possible to avoid crowding (separate entrance and exit ways, keeping within fire safety codes).

• Churches will have proper resources available to clean the church following the Mass with staff members and volunteers receiving proper training and PPE equipment in advance. Cleaning will consist of all pews, knobs, door handles, bathrooms, altars, musical equipment and touched surfaces.

• No social gatherings are allowed before or after any Mass.

• Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be positioned in churches.

Older adults or anyone with serious underlying medical conditions who might be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are asked not to attend Mass.

For more information about parishes’ reopening plans, visit portlanddiocese.org/ReopeningChurches.

Any changes to the current schedules of live-streamed Masses, parking lot Masses, drive-thru confessions, parking lot and live-streamed adoration, and other special events will be updated on the Diocese of Portland’s Coronavirus Response page — portlanddiocese.org/response-coronavirus.

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