Imploring the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to return to the celebration of Mass in person, Archbishop Nelson J. Perez launched a major initiative to this effect on Sunday May 23 of Pentecost.

He described the initiative, titled “Nothing Beats Being There,” in a letter to all Catholics (in English and Spanish) and attendees of an 11 am mass on Feast Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica. of the SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.

For over a year, Catholics, like everyone else, have had to bow to inconveniences such as not being together in person or easily seeing the faces of loved ones and friends because of face masks, guidelines intended to protect their safety and that of others. as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world.

Now, the need for these practices to protect the common good, backed by government health regulations, is fading as more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Nothing compares to being there” marks the clearest sign to date, and at the top of the list for most Catholics, that the convenience of live broadcast Masses and the necessary practice of spiritual fellowship will soon give way. to full participation in worship together as parish communities, face to face.

While the push for in-person attendance in parishes will begin in earnest in September, most restrictions on Sunday worship and daily Masses, including church capacity limits, social distancing, and the wearing of masks start to get up.

(Watch Archbishop Perez describe in his homily on Pentecost Sunday some details of the initiative in the video below, by Sarah Webb 🙂

According to directives issued by the Archdiocese last week, the exemption from the obligation to attend Mass remains in effect, even though roped benches are a thing of the past.

Parishes in the suburban Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties will see all restrictions lifted on Sunday, May 31. Parishes in the city of Philadelphia will follow on June 11.

The importance of bringing people back to the sacred liturgy comes from the words of consecration to Mass, in which the body of Christ is “abandoned for you” and his blood “shed for you”.

“As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, ”Archbishop Perez wrote in his letter. “Such a precious gift deserves our reflection and our appreciation. It is not something that we can experience virtually. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is real and our personal presence is required to receive it. “

The Archbishop noted that due to the COVID pandemic, routines and habits, including Sunday worship, have changed for everyone. Initially, no one could attend Mass except live, and in recent months people have been able to return to churches in person while observing precautions.

But attendance at most parish masses has been reduced, in some cases dramatically. This may reflect people’s fears about transmission of the virus among crowds, or perhaps an over-reliance on the convenience of live broadcast masses.

Archbishop Perez admitted that the Masses broadcast live by most churches in the Archdiocese have been “useful” during the pandemic, but that they should not be a substitute if ongoing health precautions a individual do not preclude personal presence.

“Now that the pandemic is abating and the restrictions are lifted, I invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese to return to the in-person celebration of Mass,” Bishop Perez wrote.

The recently announced initiative, he added, “will involve the whole of the Archdiocese and will include an invitation to everyone to recognize more deeply the irreplaceable need to be in person for the celebration of Sunday Mass”.

During the summer, parish leaders in the Archdiocese will slowly invite their fellow parishioners to Mass and prepare a “heartfelt invitation” before the concerted push for renewed attendance at Mass in September, according to the Archbishop’s letter.

Until then, Bishop Perez encouraged everyone to “come home for the celebration of Mass in person” because, as he wrote, “nothing compares to be there. “