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Regional News

Springfield Catholic Diocese leaves masking up to individual communities

Bishop William Byrne is installed as the 10th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, in December 2020.
Don Treeger
/
The Republican / masslive.com
Masks were required when William Byrne was installed as Springfield's Catholic bishop in December 2020.

The Springfield Catholic Diocese said it will not issue a blanket mask mandate ahead of Christmastime services. Spokesperson Mark Dupont said the church encourages mask-wearing, but is leaving the decision up to officials in individual communities.

"That's because we cover a vast part of the state of Massachusetts," Dupont said. "The conditions vary from one part of the diocese to another, so one solution doesn't necessarily make sense for all the parishes."

Dupont said parishioners should refrain from attending mass if they are not feeling well. The diocese is also allowing parishes to hold additional Christmas services in order to reduce crowds.

The Worcester Diocese is taking a similar approach.

“The City of Worcester has a mask mandate which means those churches follow it, as well as any individual towns which mandate mask use,” Worcester Diocese spokesperson Ray Delisle said in a statement. “All the rest of the parishes note that masks must be worn by unvaccinated people and when social distancing cannot be maintained.”

But in greater Boston, the archdiocese there is requiring masks at services beginning this weekend, in "light of spiking numbers of new COVID cases and the likely increase in those numbers in the upcoming holiday season."

Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts said it's leaving the mask decision up to individual churches.

“While the emergence of the new variant has caused unease in many, our churches have been abiding by best practices, and in many cases exceeding them, since our return to in-person worship,” the diocese said in a statement.