Beginning this weekend, Bishop Felipe Estévez has asked his clergy to strongly recommend parishioners wear masks while attending Mass and other liturgical services.
The move comes on the heels of an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the 17 counties of the Diocese of St. Augustine. The updated diocesan guidelines align with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health. The bishop also encourages all unvaccinated Catholics to consult their medical doctor and receive the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
“Last year, I asked parishioners to pray to God to inspire medical professionals and scientists to find a vaccine – our prayers were answered. Today, I ask that we support vaccinations wholeheartedly among our people,” said Bishop Estévez.
The guidelines remind parish staff to continue cleaning and disinfecting church surfaces and provide hand sanitizer at church entrances. All missalettes and hymnals will be removed from the pews, as the variants of COVID-19 are much more communicable and easier to spread to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Bishop Estévez lifted the general dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass on May 22. A particular dispensation remains in effect for those members of the diocese who have underlying health conditions, the aged, infirm, and those who care for them.
“I assure you that all of our efforts over the past 15 or more months have been about ‘supporting life,’” he said. First, when the COVID pandemic struck the elderly, and now our
young adults and children. This real ‘life issue’ affects the safety of all in our schools and our pews.”
The amended safety protocols are available on the diocesan website at http://www.dosafl.com/coronavirus/.