May 15 – The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced on Friday that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in church.
According to the diocese, full vaccination is defined as two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
People who do not meet these requirements are not considered fully vaccinated.
Churches will have special mask-wearing areas for parishioners who are not vaccinated or who are more comfortable wearing masks.
Janet and Dan Primm of Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood attended mass at St. Rosalia Church in Greenfield during the pandemic. Janet Primm said she was ready to drop her mask.
“That’s great,” she said. “Sometimes you can’t understand the priest with the masks on. And we can sing again and you will hear our voices.”
The couple said the church was an important part of their lives. Both are fully vaccinated.
Dan Primm said he doesn’t think there needs to be a separate area for unvaccinated people.
“If you’re nervous, wear your mask,” he said. “Because this is going to happen in the honor system, you don’t really know how it was vaccinated. And there is still a mass that you can see on TV.
“I’d rather go to church and be comfortable without a mask. But I understand that some other people may be uncomfortable.”
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed guidelines for wearing masks in public health so that people can safely stop wearing masks in most locations and outdoors in crowds. The Ministry of Health followed suit.
Priests, altar servers and Eucharistic ministers do not have to wear masks when they are fully vaccinated, said Diocesan spokeswoman Jennifer Antkowiak.
She said altar wine and the sign of peace are not yet being offered.
The story goes on
Rev. John Skirtich of Whitehall, Our Lady of Hope’s pastor in the South Hills, said while the lifting of the mask mandate is certainly very welcome for the fully vaccinated, he believes there will be some adjustment period for everyone involved.
“Patience and flexibility will continue to be important as we return to what we think is normal,” he said. “We must continue to consider the fears and vulnerabilities of others as we address their concerns in both church and community.”
The capacity limits will remain in place until Memorial Day, the diocese said. At this time, all churches in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are allowed 100% seating.
“As we have seen in several places during this pandemic, health policies and guidelines can change quickly,” Bishop David Zubik said in a statement. “I continue to thank the believers for the flexibility and hard work of our clergy and their parish teams in implementing the changing guidelines in our parishes. Our loving Lord has seen us through our masks and is here with and for us during this next transition . “
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, email@example.com, or on Twitter.