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Detroit archdiocese extends COVID-19 Mass dispensation

The Detroit News

The leader of southeast Michigan Catholics announced Friday they are not obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until February as COVID-19 cases surge in the region.

In a letter to parishioners in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron said he had extended a general dispensation that was due to expire Nov. 22, "at which point we had hoped the pandemic would have eased enough to allow all of us to return in an unrestricted way to our celebrations of the Holy Eucharist."

Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron, bless and distribute ashes to Laura Ragold of Birmingham during the Ash Wednesday service at St. Aloysius Church.

"Unfortunately, local and state health officials report that we not only continue to experience an increase in cases in our region and elsewhere, but that the rate of increase is rising dramatically and dangerously," Vigneron wrote. "I have been in communication with leaders in our Catholic hospitals and they are very concerned about the immediate future and the challenges they face caring for all those in need, not just those experiencing serious complications from COVID."

The dispensation is now extended through Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17 for people living in or visiting the archdiocese, he said. 

The archdiocese includes more than 1 million Catholics across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

"As we have from the beginning, we will continue to closely monitor the situation in our region, with an eye on the day — hopefully in the not-too-distant future — when all of us are able to safely reunite in our normal patterns of worship," he wrote.

Vigneron noted many parishes have been livestreaming Masses during the pandemic.

While the dispensation was extended, according to the archdiocese website, "our churches remain open and all guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing and other precautions to help ensure the health and well-being of our communities remain in place." 

Last week, following a state health order, archdiocesan officials said all non-liturgical gatherings in parishes could not exceed 50 people per venue or 20 people per 1,000 square feet.

Essential parish activities, such as religious education and youth ministry, were permitted amid guidelines published by the Department of Catholic Schools.

Vigneron's announcement came the same day Michigan confirmed 118 virus-related deaths and 8,516 new cases of COVID-19, a daily record. 

The state had its fifth consecutive week of breaking records for weekly cases, with doubling every two- to two and a half weeks. Michigan has reported 36,947 cases Sunday through Friday. The previous weekly high of confirmed cases was set last week at 29,614.

The new additions bring the state's total of confirmed cases to 244,741 since the virus was first detected in Michigan in March, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The state's seven-day average for daily cases is 5,526 through Friday.

The death toll stands at 7,929 but rises to 8,308 when probable deaths are counted.