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Diocesan mask mandate lifted

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Following the announcement that New York state would eliminate its mask mandate on Feb. 10 for many indoor settings, the Diocese of Buffalo has made the wearing of masks at Mass and public church gatherings optional.

At this time, masks are now optional for all participants in liturgies held in Catholic churches and worship spaces located in the Diocese of Buffalo based on prevailing guidance from health officials and/or an individual’s doctor or other medical professional,” said Father Sean Paul Fleming, diocesan director of Worship, in a statement.

Churchgoers may wear masks at their discretion of the individual. “Out of pastoral concern, the safety of others should always be considered when making this choice,” Father Fleming said.

Eucharistic ministers should continue to wear masks when distributing Communion for the protection of the vulnerable and those who may not be able to be vaccinated. Holy Water may be reintroduced in fonts and stoups at the discretion of the parish. The water in the fonts should be changed regularly.

The diocese also recommends that the Catholic schools continue to follow the governor’s mask mandate as one part of the Covid mitigation plan which also includes improved ventilation, increased social distancing, and improved sanitation efforts. When the mask mandate ends, the diocese is recommending that each school make its own decision regarding masks (at certain times or in certain places, for example, or completely optional). The Diocesan Department of Catholic Education will continue to monitor developments in concert with the other New York state Catholic superintendents and will provide guidance when the mask rules become optional.

Faith Formation programs and other parish gatherings can follow their own local guidelines for masks.

Those visiting parishioners or loved ones in a hospital, nursing home or other similar setting, should check the policies of the individual location and abide by its mask policy.

The statement included a reminder that parishes in the diocese and affiliated ministries and groups are not authorized to screen for vaccinations. Good hygiene, disinfection of facilities, and prudent precautions still contribute to the common good and overall well-being of our communities.

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