PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced it will follow the CDC and state guidelines to lift all restrictions for in-person worship. For suburban churches, the changes go into effect on Memorial Day, May 31. Philadelphia will do so 11 days later. Church leaders say it’s time to come back.
“It’s time for everyone to return to mass,” said Father Dennis Gill with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.READ MORE: Doug Mastriano, Republican Candidate For Pennsylvania Governor, To Appear Before Jan. 6 Committee
On Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced it will be lifting all COVID restrictions starting May 31 in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties. Philadelphia will follow on Friday, June 11.
“The celebration of mass will very much what it was like prior to the pandemic,” Gill said.
Following CDC guidelines, those fully vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask and churches can expand capacity from 75 to 100%. However, one pandemic change will stay for now.
“We’re at a point now where I’m glad some of these restrictions are being lifted because it’s getting more crowded,” Monsignor Michael Picard from St. Andrew Parish said.
Picard says the time apart physically has affirmed the importance of gathering as a faith community.
“Church is more than just going into a building,” he said.READ MORE: Heat Health Emergency In Philadelphia Has Residents Running For Cover From Sun: 'This Heat Is Like, Dangerous'
He’s celebrating 55 years ordained this week and says COVID changes have, in some cases, actually expanded their reach.
“Many people responded to us that maybe hadn’t been coming because we live-streamed all of our masses every week,” Picard said.
But he cautions online isn’t the same as in-person.
“It is OK if that is the true motive about not going, but if it’s I kind of like watching mass in my living room now in my armchair that would not be a good thing,” Picard said.
This coming Sunday, the archbishop will make a “very forceful invitation for Catholics to return to in-person mass.”
Those with health issues are still excused, but for the rest of the Catholic faithful, the message is Sunday is back on the calendar.MORE NEWS: Man Killed, 2 Others Injured In Shooting Outside Popeyes In North Philadelphia: Police
CBS3’s Alicia Roberts reports.