Vatican urges return to in-person Mass as soon as possible

The Vatican said Saturday it was “necessary and urgent” to return to in-person Masses as soon as anti-coronavirus measures permit

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican said Saturday it was “necessary and urgent” to return to in-person Masses as soon as anti-coronavirus measures permit.

The head of the Vatican’s liturgy office, Cardinal Robert Sarah, said in a letter to bishops conferences that virtual liturgies, while useful, were no replacement for the real thing. He said physical presence by the faithful in churches was “vital, indispensable, irreplaceable.”

He halted all public Masses at the Vatican, livestreamed his morning liturgies during the peak of Italy's outbreak, and at one point even admonished priests who balked at the measures for their “adolescent resistance.”

The Vatican said Saturday that Francis had approved Sarah’s letter to bishops conferences, which makes clear that government authorities cannot dictate liturgical practices.

In recent weeks Francis has resumed public gatherings and has celebrated a handful of public Masses before limited, socially distanced groups.

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