Bishop Asks for No Major Mass Changes Until July

by Msgr. Robert Siler

After consulting May 19 with the Vicars of the Diocese as well as the Executive Committee of the Council of Priests, Bishop Joseph Tyson has asked that parishes make no major changes to the celebration of Masses until at least July 1. That is when a full reopening of the state anticipated by Gov. Jay Inslee should bring a significant easing to restrictions in place to help protect the public during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

After hearing from the vicars and executive committee, Bishop Tyson concluded it would be difficult for parishes to implement “vaccinated” and “unvaccinated” sections in churches that would allow fully-vaccinated church-goers to remove their masks during services. Any pastors who might wish to experiment with this option may not proceed without receiving the bishop’s personal approval. This would require submitting a revised safety plan that would include how the parish would verify vaccination records or negative COVID test results provided by those attending Mass.

“It is important that we be as united as possible when we pray together,” Bishop Tyson stated. “Sometimes that means we need to makes sacrifices.” While the bishop continues to encourage Catholics to be vaccinated, and has affirmed that it is morally permissible to receive any of the vaccines currently available, the diocese will not impose this as an obligation on parishioners to attend Mass.

Parishes that have have requesting signups in advance for Masses are encouraged to continue to do so, particularly if the process has been helpful to ensure that occupancy limits aren’t exceeded and parishioners have equal opportunities to attend. It is encouraged, though not required, that parishes maintain records for at least two weeks of those who attend Mass to assist in contact tracing should a major outbreak occur.