CHARLOTTE — Parishes may return to near-normal operations effective immediately, the Diocese of Charlotte has announced, following state and federal officials’ moves to relax COVID-19 restrictions.

Catholics’ obligation to attend Sunday Mass is also being reinstated effective Pentecost Sunday, May 23, although some important exceptions will remain.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced May 13 that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear face coverings or follow social distancing norms under most circumstances.

North Carolina’s requirements for masks and social distancing were similarly dropped May 14.

However, state and federal health officials urge people who are vulnerable or unvaccinated to continue wearing masks and following social distancing norms.

In North Carolina, 46 percent of people aged 18 and older have been fully vaccinated to date.

In response to the state and federal actions, the Diocese of Charlotte’s vicar general and chancellor, Monsignor Patrick J. Winslow, issued a decree May 14 announcing that mask and social distancing requirements at all religious services are lifted “effective immediately.”

The diocese’s instruction states:

In accordance with the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which no longer recommends social distancing or face coverings for those who are fully vaccinated, and North Carolina Executive Order 215 that lifts mask and social distancing requirements in most circumstances, effective immediately parishes and the faithful in the Diocese of Charlotte are to observe the following norms.


Liturgical Services:

Religious services no longer require social distancing or face coverings.
Those who remain vulnerable are advised to continue wearing face coverings or attend Mass virtually.
Masses and confessions are to return to their pre-COVID schedules beginning Pentecost Sunday (May 23, 2021).
The options of receiving Communion from the chalice and extending the Sign of Peace are to remain omitted until further notice.
The faithful retain the right to receive Communion on the tongue or in the hand.
Mass Obligation:

Beginning Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, the general dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will be narrowed to include only those who remain vulnerable to the coronavirus.


Charities and outreach efforts remain operational.

— Catholic News Herald