New Jersey bishops say Catholics must go back to church this weekend

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholics were not required to attend weekly mass as they received a special dispensation.

But that is changing now, and in some areas, parishioners are expected back at mass this weekend.

New Jersey has one of the largest Catholic populations in the nation, so this news affects many people.

A large number of those people were in attendance Friday for a mass and commencement ceremony for Camden Catholic High School graduates.

Many of them were proud parents packed into the Camden Catholic High School gym to see 180 seniors get their diplomas.

In the Catholic Church, it is considered a grave sin to skip mass without a valid reason. The bishops are not giving unvaccinated people a pass to stay home.

And there are no exceptions for children under 12 who are not eligible for vaccines.

Most Action News spoke with say they are okay with it.

"I think it's time for us to go back to life, and a lot of people take comfort in going to mass, and that's where people should be if that's where they're comfortable. And people who wanna continue to watch from home can do so," said Tracy Edwards of Marlton, N.J.

In Delaware and the Maryland Eastern Shore, the Catholic Diocese is obligating parishioners to go back to mass beginning June 26.

At the Philadelphia Archdiocese, a spokesman says the obligation to attend mass has not been reinstated.

But they strongly encourage all those who wish to attend to do so.

Still, some people say they still don't feel comfortable.

"I think that more time is needed because this is something that we knew nothing of. And I think it's still foreign to us, so I think to each their own," said Ella Roberts of Gloucester Township.

Several dioceses in New Jersey are lifting capacity restrictions, social distancing, and mask requirements.

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