• <p>The faithful kneel in prayer during the annual White Mass at Rochester&rsquo;s Sacred Heart Cathedral Oct. 19. (Courier file photo)  </p>

    The faithful kneel in prayer during the annual White Mass at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Oct. 19. (Courier file photo)

Diocese of Rochester updates seating restrictions for Masses

Mike Latona/Catholic Courier    |    12.07.2020
Category: Local News


In light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Diocese of Rochester has issued updated guidelines to parishes regarding seating restrictions for Masses at its worship sites.

By a 5-4 count Nov. 25, the high court issued a temporary injunction barring enforcement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on capacity restrictions at religious gatherings in areas of high COVID-19 incidence. The court granted relief pending further action by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

According to guidelines the diocese issued to parishes Dec. 3, churches in red zones — as designated by New York state officials — may hold liturgies with congregations totaling no more than 25 percent of the churches’ maximum head-count capacities. Attendance at liturgies celebrated in orange zones is capped at 33 percent capacity, and the limit for worship sites in yellow zones or undesignated (no zone) areas is 50 percent.

The diocesan statement noted that these limits are the result of “consultation with the New York State Catholic Conference and our legal counsel.”

As of Dec. 7, no churches in the diocese were located into a red zone. Orange-zone designation applied to much of Chemung County and parts of Monroe County, while other sections of Monroe County were designated as yellow zones. None of the other 10 diocesan counties had zone designations as of Dec. 7.

The diocesan statement added that “it is absolutely vital that our parishes continue all efforts associated with cleaning of public spaces, hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and the diocesan liturgical guidelines which still remain in effect.”

Specific liturgical guidelines, issued by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano on May 21, are available at https://www.dor.org/wp-content/uploads/MEMORANDUM-Coronavirus-update-for-Masses-with-10-people-May-21-2020.pdf. The Dec. 3 diocesan statement noted that although these guidelines were issued when Mass attendance was limited to 10 people, they remain in effect and apply regardless of occupancy limits.

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