America, May 19, 2021
Updated May 20, 2021
In response to the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number of Orthodox dioceses in America have lifted mask mandates and other restrictions.
In particular, the mandate has been lifted for all American parishes of Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, and in several dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America.
On May 14, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of New York of the Antiochian Archdiocese announced that, in light of the CDC’s announcement the day before that the vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance, and given that most adults who desire to be vaccinated have had the opportunity to do so, “we are lifting all requirements to wear masks and social distance in our churches in the United States of America.”
Additionally, parishes are to resume choirs, Church schools, coffee hours, social functions, and meetings by the beginning of the ecclesiastical new year in September.
Parishes in Canada continue to be restricted by civil authorities.
That same day, His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West of the Orthodox Church in America also announced that his parishes are blessed to implement the CDC guidelines where civil authorities allow (masks are still mandatory in California until June 15, he notes). He also asks that individuals and families, “whether wearing masks or not, monitor themselves in this regard, always in a manner that is respectful of others in the parish community.”
The next day, His Grace Bishop Alexis of Bethesda of the OCA, the locum tenens of the Diocese of Alaska, announced that those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or socially distance, and all other activities are to resume by the start of the next ecclesiastical new year. Additionally, clergy should not attempt to monitor who is or isn’t vaccinated, “as this is an individual’s responsibility.”
On May 17, His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania of the OCA announced that “effective immediately, we are eliminating the mandatory mask and social distancing requirements for our Pennsylvania parishes and encourage our faithful to return to full participation in the life of the church.”
“I pray that our faithful will welcome these changes and begin to experience some measure of peace,” His Eminence writes.
Abp. Mark also issued a directive in March stipulating that no one in his parishes is to be asked whether they have been vaccinated, and that vaccination cannot become a prerequisite for full participation in the life of the Church.
UPDATE: On May 19, Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese announced that, per the announcement from Governor Cuomo, following CDC guidelines, the mask and social distance mandate has been lifted for the faithful who are fully vaccinated in New York state.