Bishop Spalding extends dispensation of obligation to attend Mass

Bishop J. Mark Spalding has extended indefinitely the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, which was scheduled to expire on Monday, Aug. 3.

“As a community of faith, we continue to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting our nation and our world,” Bishop Spalding wrote in a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Nashville explaining his decision. “We have continued to monitor the situation and have hoped and prayed for progress. While there are signs of hope, there are also ongoing uncertainties and precautions we must take to ensure the health and well-being of all.

“Therefore, I am once again extending the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation,” he added. “While we anticipate maintaining this dispensation through the end of the calendar year, we will carefully monitor the situation and may modify the dispensation as circumstances warrant.”

The official decree extending the dispensation reads, “Since the worldwide health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing, and civil authorities have continued to encourage all individuals to exercise prudence in returning to activities of public life, I hereby extend the provisions of my decree, as established on 17 March 2020 and renewed on 31 March and 24 April 2020 and 24 June 2020, for an indefinite period.”

Bishop Spalding, following the advice of civil authorities and experts, suspended the public celebration of Masses and directed parishes to cancel all non-liturgical gatherings beginning on March 17 as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States and Tennessee. At that time, he also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.

In May, the bishop restored the public celebration of Masses but with guidelines to maintain social distancing and other steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. He also, at that time, kept the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass in place.

“While we have successfully resumed in-person Masses at most of our parishes, I encourage those who are vulnerable, sick, or otherwise at risk or concerned about contracting or spreading disease, to refrain from attending Mass,” the bishop wrote in his letter to the faithful released on Thursday, July 30. “Those who do choose to return to Mass should observe all guidelines concerning social distancing, diligent hygiene, and the use of facial coverings.

“We will be continuing to provide resources for growth in your life of faith, and opportunities to watch celebrations of Mass online,” he added. “Attending Mass on a weekday can also be a good way to participate in public worship in a smaller and more socially distanced setting.”

The bishop closed his letter with a reminder to pray. “My thoughts and prayers remain with you,” he wrote. “Let us continue to pray for the swift conclusion to this time of crisis, and for the health and safety of all.”

To read the bishop’s letter and the decree extending the dispensation, visit www.dioceseofnashville.com.