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Archbishop lifts dispensation, Catholics obligated to attend Sunday Mass

The decree allowing Catholics to participate in Masses virtually and make a Spiritual Communion is no longer applicable. Archbishop Jason Gordon made the announcement in the Official for the Archdiocese published in the Catholic News, April 16–22.

Consequently, Catholics who can, should attend Mass in person.

The decree, On the Dispensation from the Obligation of Attending Sunday Mass During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain was issued June 12, 2020.

Archbishop Gordon stated that it is 2023 and Church has opened up for some time and reverted to in-person Masses. In March, the Health, Safety and Environment Team of the Archdiocese issued guidelines for the further relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

“As such, the aforementioned decree is no longer applicable. We therefore encourage you to attend Holy Mass in person, in fulfilment of your weekend obligation,” he stated. Online Masses are available for persons who are shut-ins or ill.

Archbishop Gordon said the decree was only effective if someone “truthfully attempted to attend Holy Mass during the week or weekend at your parish, or within your cluster and were unsuccessful in doing so. Subsequently, participating via television or online was your next option as opposed to non-participation in Holy Mass”. An extension of the decree was granted June 30 to July 30, 2020.

When the decree was granted in 2020, Archbishop Gordon cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church” (CCC 2177).

He stressed, “In no way do I want to diminish the importance of the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in the life of the Church which is more than an obligation, but to be seen as a gift and a privilege.”

He acknowledged with the Government’s guidelines for the reopening of churches, there will be limited capacity in gathering. As a result, not all would be able to attend Masses on weekends.

The dispensation was granted in the following circumstances: Persons, e.g. health workers, and security personnel, “who through no fault of their own cannot attend a weekend Mass,” and attend Mass at church on a weekday, this would serve as their weekend obligation; high risk or vulnerable individuals—persons over the age of 65, with pre-existing chronic illnesses, and caregivers; persons who tried to attend Mass in their parish cluster or another parish cluster but were unsuccessful.

Catholics who view televised or streamed Masses were reminded to adhere to preparations for Mass i.e., fast for one hour before Holy Mass, dress appropriately, reflect on the day’s scripture, and pray for an encounter with the Lord through the Holy Mass.