Altoona-Johnstown bishop restoring Mass obligation

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Jul. 15—The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is restoring its Mass obligation, a directive binding the faithful to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses again beginning Aug. 15.

It's a longstanding directive in the Catholic faith — but one that has been suspended across the region — and nation — since the spring of 2020 to help control the spread of COVID-19.

With the help of vaccinations and social distancing, the dangers brought by the COVID-19 virus have diminished and our churches are open.

All of this points to the conclusion that the dispensation from the obligation to participate at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is no longer necessary," Bishop Mark Bartchak said.

He said he spoke with fellow Pennsylvania bishops, who are all announcing the same directive in their communities this month.

"Thanks to God, things are improving," he wrote in a letter to local faithful.

But in the meantime, Catholics across the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese have gone through a long "dry spell of not encountering our Lord and each other in our churches," Bartchak said.

He described parish churches as "our spiritual home" — and said a return to those churches is an opportunity to start anew.

"I invite all of you to come to your place at the Lord's table," he said.

"Come back to that same pew at the same Mass time that was part of your regular Sunday routine."

The obligation doesn't apply to shut-ins and others who are seriously ill or have chronic health conditions, he wrote.

The diocese has continued delivering Mass to parishioners through online sources and television broadcasts.

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