Atlanta Archdiocese to End Sunday Mass Dispensation

Those who are ill or who would be significantly compromised by Covid-19 because of underlying health conditions were told by Archbishop Hartmayer that they may continue use the dispensation.

Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta, Ga.
Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta, Ga. (photo: CNA file photo / Archdiocese of Atlanta)

ATLANTA — This week the archdiocese of Atlanta announced an end date to the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. 

In a letter to parishioners in the archdiocese, Archbishop Hartmayer said that he “believes it is time to begin to bring more people physically back to church.” 

Citing the wide availability of vaccines and the previous year’s “extraordinary” steps to combat Covid-19, the archbishop said he finds it “an appropriate time to take our next step forward to full reopening of our churches.”

In his April 29 letter to the public, Archbishop Hartmayer said that the dispensation will expire on May 22. “While the general dispensation will lift,” he said, “I am putting into place some exceptions for certain circumstances.

The letter outlined the specific persons for whom the dispensation is still applicable according to canon law. 

Those who are ill or who would be significantly compromised by Covid-19 because of underlying health conditions were told by the archbishop that they may continue use the dispensation.

The list of dispensed persons also included those experiencing flu symptoms, pregnant women, anyone exposed to Covid-19, and those 65 years of age or older, citing the CDC’s recommendation of high-risk individuals. 

Those who miss Mass through no fault of their own and those with significant anxiety of becoming ill at mass are dispensed from the obligation as well. 

Archbishop Hartmayer wrote that those “legitimately dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass are still to observe the Lord’s Day by participating in a broadcast of the Sunday Mass or by spending time in prayer or meditating on Scripture, either individually or as a family.”

The archbishop wrote that masks and social distancing will still be required in the parishes and emphasized that outdoor masses remain a possibility to accommodate higher numbers of the faithful. He said that people should remain reasonably distanced from those who are outside their family. 

Archbishop Hartmayer thanked all clergy and employees of the diocese for their creativity and dedication during the lockdowns.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]