ALLOUEZ — Bishop David Ricken has reinstated the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. The announcement was made in a decree issued Oct. 2 and released Oct. 5. The dispensation begins with weekend Masses Oct. 10 and 11.
One month earlier, on Sept. 7, Bishop Ricken had issued a decree stating that diocesan Catholics should again observe the Sunday obligation. Even with the reinstated dispensation, Bishop Ricken made it clear that “this is NOT a closure of public Masses on Sundays or weekdays.”
“We will continue to celebrate the Mass publicly every Sunday at all of our parishes for those who are able to attend and willing to strictly follow the proper health protocols,” he said.
In the Oct. 2 decree, Bishop Ricken stated that the “dramatic and dangerous increase of the COVID-19 virus within the 16 diocesan counties” necessitated the dispensation’s reinstatement.
“Therefore, in order to help prevent the spread of disease, to allay fear, and to assure the consciences of the faithful, I hereby reinstate the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice,” said Bishop Ricken.
In a letter to members of the diocese, Bishop Ricken said that over the past week, he has “reflected deeply” on the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases.
“Much of my discernment has been around how we might be bold in living our Catholic faith in Jesus Christ while also remaining prudent and charitable in our efforts to keep ourselves and others safe and stop the spread of this disease,” he wrote.
“In the past few weeks the number of cases has increased fourfold within many areas of our diocese, and we are being counted among the worst outbreaks in the country,” Bishop Ricken continued. “Therefore, given the recent markedly high rise in the number of cases, and after consultation with diocesan leadership and medical professionals, I have decided to dispense again the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Green Bay from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays.”
He noted that the dispensation was granted “to help in preventing the community spread of this disease.”
“I have further done this for those who might be unable to come to Mass because of significant health concerns as well as for those who have been burdened in conscience,” said Bishop Ricken. “After the current high numbers of infection have subsided and stabilized, we will return to the Sunday obligation requirements.”
With an increase in COVID-19 infection, Bishop Ricken said it is important for parishes to become more vigilant in observing health protocols to prevent spread of the disease.
“The wearing of masks is mandatory at Masses celebrated throughout our diocese and as your shepherd I am asking you to do so,” he wrote. “I am also requiring that pastors and pastoral leaders make ‘provision’ on church premises for those who cannot wear a mask for health reasons or (other serious reasons) to attend Mass and receive holy Communion.”
Even with the dispensation’s return, Bishop Ricken reminded Catholics that attending Sunday Mass and receiving the Eucharist offers “great medicinal value.”
“The Eucharist itself has tremendous healing properties, since it is the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, and being together to worship God at Mass every Sunday, even in modest numbers, greatly strengthens our faith,” he added.