The Diocese of Corpus Christi is ending the dispensation period that excused Catholics from attending Mass if they were concerned about possibly catching COVID-19 during in-person worship.
"We are obligated as Catholic Christians to be at the Eucharist on Sunday, which has been going on for 2,000 years," Bishop Michael Mulvey said. "(I ended the dispensation period) to make it a little more formal.”
Beginning Sunday, Mulvey said all Catholics should attend Mass, with some exceptions.
"We are telling people who are ill (and those) who have a preexisting condition that might be vulnerable because of the pandemic (to stay home)," he said. "The virus is still out there. We do recognize that absolutely. And some people are still a bit cautious, and I understand that, too. So all of that is still on the table for them to remain at home."
The news was met with mixed emotions.
Corpus Christi resident Monique Reyna grew up Catholic. She believes members of the faith should have been attending Mass all along.
“I think it’s ridiculous to use COVID-19 as a reason not to go to church," she said. "Especially Catholic church."
Others see risks associated with the rituals of a Catholic Mass involving a large number of people.
“It’s not just sitting," Corpus Christi resident Sirfredickvion King said. "You’re standing. You’re kneeling. You’re doing a lot of different things. (COVID-19) spread can come very easily in the Roman Catholic Church, because you have to do so many different things.”
There are also those who applaud the diocese for allowing some churchgoers to stay at home.
“I think if you’re in a high-risk group, you probably shouldn’t go," Corpus Christi resident Sarah Richenberg said. "But if you’re not — if you want to go to church — then you should be able to go to church.”
Mulvey said the diocese has been monitoring the novel coronavirus on a month-by-month basis. He's encouraged enough by the numbers of cases, and the numbers of worshipers already returning to Mass, to end dispensation.
“I think people themselves are more-than-ready to come back," Mulvey said. "In fact, we see the numbers increasing in the parishes. So we’re already coming back."