Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Bridgeport
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Hartford, Conn., May 12, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).
The Latin rite bishops in Connecticut announced Monday that in each of their dioceses the general obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays and holy days will resume May 23.
The May 10 letter was signed by the ordinaries of the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich, as well as the auxiliary bishop of Hartford.
"With confidence in the Lord's grace and protection, we have decided to end the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation in person in each of our respective dioceses effective Saturday, May 22, 2021," the bishops wrote in their May 10 letter.
They said, "we believe the time has come to review the importance that full participation at Mass has for the spiritual life of all believers and offer a heartfelt appeal for all Catholics to return to the Sunday celebration of Mass."
The bishops' decision cited the increase in vaccinated people, decreased hospitalizations around the state, and the stripping of many indoor restrictions on public gatherings as reasons to end the dispensation.
The letter said that the original intent behind the dispensation was to protect human life, "especially the frailest and most vulnerable in our midst from becoming infected by a disease which many doctors were unsure how best to combat."
The bishops thanked their communities for their cooperation in observing the safety protocols "that resulted in no significant viral spread of Covid-19 at any celebration of Mass in our dioceses."
The encounters with Christ at Mass, they said, "offer us a deeply personal opportunity for spiritual nourishment. By receiving Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, the Lord's grace strengthens the daily life we share with him through our personal prayer and works of charity. Holy Communion is the celestial food that enlightens our minds, gives comfort to our hearts, and strengthens our wills to live the Church's mission in word, deeds and manner of life."
"While Christian discipleship involves a deeply personal relationship with the Lord, it is never a wholly private one. At our baptism, each of us received the Spirit of adoption, transforming us into Temples of the Holy Spirit and members of the one Mystical Body of Christ. The pursuit of holiness in our personal lives requires that we come together as a community of faith so that the Lord can bless, unite, and strengthen our shared hopes, dreams, challenges, and sufferings in service to Him," they said, explaining the need to assist at Mass.
The Sunday and holy day obligation to attend Mass "is the Church's expression of the deep, personal desire that burns in our hearts to come into the presence of the Lord whom we love, who gave His life for our salvation so that we may receive Him as food for our life's journey unto eternal glory. For who among us does not want to spend time with someone we deeply love," they asked.
"It must be our deep love for Christ that invites us to seek Him in person and by attending Mass, to welcome Him intimately into our lives as food for the journey of life."
Legitimate reasons for being prevented from returning to Mass include, they said, "suffering from serious pre-existing conditions that may make a person more susceptible to falling ill from COVID-19; being ill and homebound or being a caregiver in close contact with someone who is; having tested positive for any contagious disease, including COVID-19; or being in quarantine due to exposure to any contagion or residing with someone who is quarantined."
"For anyone facing these circumstances, please remember that the Lord will never invite you to do something that poses a danger to oneself or others," the bishops of Connecticut wrote.
The bishops called for prayer that Christ, "in his great mercy, will deepen our appreciation, love and participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."