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Clarifications on mask-wearing at Catholic places of worship

“It is not mandatory to wear a mask to enter our churches, parish offices, or other church buildings but we highly recommend that all persons entering our church buildings wear a mask.”

The Archdiocese Health Safety and Environment Team (HSE) emphasised this point on Monday, July 18 in response to questions from the Catholic News. It reinforced that mask-wearing is “for their own protection and for the protection of others, at all times while in the church buildings”.

On Friday, July 15 the HSE issued a bulletin #26 outlining the protocols for church with the removal of mandatory mask wearing in public spaces. There have been questions from Catholics still unsure about how to proceed when attending church.

The HSE Team provided the following clarifications:

Archbishop Jason Gordon said the Church is not going to put anyone out?

No-one will be prevented from entering the church if not wearing a mask.

Would I be refused communion if I’m not wearing a mask?

No-one will be refused communion if not wearing a mask

Are lectors allowed to remove their mask?

Lectors are allowed to remove their mask when reading, but the preference is that everyone keep their mask on at all times while in church buildings.

Are altar servers/hospitality ministry/choir etc allowed to remove their masks and still serve?

Our preference is that anyone distributing communion or handling vessels that are placed on the altar or will be handled by other persons or those welcoming persons at the doors, etc. should wear a mask. This is particularly for the protection of those officiating as they are coming into contact with many persons. The preference is also for choir members to keep their masks on at all times while in the church.

Archbishop Jason Gordon appealed for Catholics to continue wearing masks in churches to “safeguard the most vulnerable”. His appeal came at last Sunday’s Mass (July 17) at the Living Water Community Chapel, Port of Spain.

“You might get Covid and bounce back with no problem at all and can’t understand why all this mask thing still going on when they say you don’t have to. We’re not saying you have to, but we’re saying for the sake of the most vulnerable let us make a choice and choose to,” he said.

Face masks became mandatory Monday, August 31, 2020, to control the spread of the Covid-19. The Public Health Regulation on wearing masks in public, except for health facilities, ended on July 17.

The Health Ministry has however recommended the practice continue in certain settings including places of worship and all retail settings, public transportation, and transportation hubs. Discretion is left to businesses and other institutions whether to enforce a policy of mask wearing.

Stressing that Covid is still very present in the country, Archbishop Gordon informed that he knew several people who contracted the virus but did not know how.

“We need to be cautious and careful and so all we are asking is the mask when you come. Please choose, choose to safeguard those who are most vulnerable who might be sitting next to or behind or in front,” he said.

For the persons who are “really having a challenge” with masks, he added “we’re not putting anybody out, but just ask you please, just make the choice”.

Photo source for this article: St Michael’s RC Church, Maracas

For COVID 19 updates in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain: CLICK HERE