Archdiocese relaxes mask mandate for vaccinated Massgoers if pastors choose

A woman wears a mask as she attends Mass at Holy Trinity Parish in Port Huron on Palm Sunday. While the Archdiocese of Detroit will no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask during Mass, individual parishes have flexibility to maintain protocols as they see fit, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said May 19. (Photos by Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

Decision aligns with CDC, state health officials’ guidelines, but allows parishes to decide how best to keep parishioners safe

DETROIT — The Archdiocese of Detroit will no longer require Massgoers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks in church or maintain social distance, in alignment with an advisory from the Centers for Disease Control that vaccinated people may safely resume “normal” activities in most cases.

The archdiocese’s new guidance, issued May 19, clarified that those who have not yet been fully vaccinated — defined by most standards as two weeks after a person’s final COVID-19 vaccine dose — must continue to mask up and practice social distancing.

“Because a parish community — and our society — requires mutual trust and a commitment to the common good, each individual is asked to make the best decisions for himself as well as for others,” the archdiocese’s guidance stated. “Parishes do not have the responsibility to verify who is and who is not vaccinated.”

Although the new protocols are based on an honor system, individual parishes may still require masks and distancing at their pastors’ discretion, said Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in a letter accompanying the new protocols.

While fully vaccinated individuals may not be required to wear a mask, parishes will still be required to maintain a section of the church — with the size determined by the pastor — where masks and social distancing are continually enforced.

“While Archdiocesan-wide COVID liturgical protocols are relaxed — in alignment with guidance from national and state public health officials — we realize there are diverse situations and a variety of needs across the six counties of southeast Michigan,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Therefore, I have asked pastors to determine how best to adjust parish protocols for the particular needs of their parishes. 

“Each of us is called to keep in mind our need to care for the common good — including a deliberate consideration to receive the COVID vaccine for the good of oneself and one’s neighbor,” the archbishop added. “This care for the common good entails a particular care and love for those who are most vulnerable among us, in this situation the elderly and the immunocompromised.”

Although Archbishop Vigneron lifted the general dispensation from the obligation of most Catholics’ to attend Mass on Sundays in March, particular dispensations remain for those in a variety of circumstances. Individuals over 65, those at high risk and their caretakers, and people with “significant fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass” are among those who continue to be excused from their obligation. 

Those who are ill or believe they are asymptomatically carrying an illness are strongly encouraged not to attend Mass.

The change marks the first time since the pandemic began that masks and social distancing will not be required of all Massgoers in the archdiocese. 

Students attend a school Mass at St. William Parish in Walled Lake. Because most children under the age of 16 have not been vaccinated, masks and social distancing will still be required in archdiocesan schools through the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

As of May 17, more than half of Michiganders over the age of 16 — 56.5% — have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While coronavirus cases peaked this spring, weekly caseloads have been decreasing in the state since mid-April.

While mask and distancing requirements will be lifted for those who are fully vaccinated, parishes must continue to provide a portion of the church where masks and social distancing are continually maintained. Parishes may also reinstitute the Sign of Peace during Mass, while allowing parishioners to decide how widely to share such signs. 

Other COVID-19 protocols — such as limiting the reception of the Precious Blood during Communion and requiring extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to wear masks — will continue to be enforced. 

Parishes are still required to have hand sanitizer available at entrances.

“These revised liturgical protocols should be a sign that we have made great progress from March 2020. But we still need to be vigilant in the weeks and months ahead,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “As we continue to adapt to a new reality, it will be crucial that each of us exercises heroic patience with one another. For some these changes are a welcome adjustment. For others, it will take more time to feel comfortable with the adjustments. For all, this is an opportunity for Christian charity and a renewed commitment to exercise another Unleash the Gospel virtue: unusually gracious hospitality.”

Because a majority of children under the age of 16 have not, in most cases, received the vaccine, mask and social distancing requirements will still be enforced for Catholic schools in the archdiocese for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year.

COVID-19 protocols in the Archdiocese of Detroit

For an updated list of COVID-19 protocols for parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit and a list of frequently asked questions, visit