KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Catholic leaders announced that congregation members were not obligated to attend Sunday Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic several months ago. Now, a Knoxville Bishop said that they intend to restore that obligation on Pentecost weekend.
On March 25, Bishop Richard Stika announces that he intends to restore the obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday Mass effective May 22 - 23. The Dioceses of Memphis and Nashville already restored the obligation on Palm Sunday, according to a release from officials.
“I am still not comfortable about the situation here in East Tennessee,” Bishop Stika said. "Some people have received the vaccine and some have not. Spring break is going on, and there are still many uncertainties out there with the new strains of the virus. I do not want to place an undue burden on the faithful, so what I have decided is to wait.”
He also required pastors to remind people that they are not currently obligated to attend Sunday Mass. They are also allowed to determine capacity restrictions for their community, but the Bishop said face coverings are required during worship services and social events.
Churches are also expected to clean in between services, and hymnals should be removed from pews. Holding hands while reciting prayers is also not permitted.
“Last year, we reopened public worship on Pentecost, the birth of the Church, 50 days after the celebration of Easter,” Bishop Stika said. "So my goal (this year) is to lift the dispensation from Sunday observance on Pentecost weekend."