PORTLAND — Effective Oct. 13, Catholic churches in Maine will now allow up to 50 percent capacity or 100 people total (whichever is less) at indoor daily and Sunday Masses.

Since June 1, the Diocese of Portland has allowed Maine churches to hold public Masses with restrictions and safeguards in place, including a maximum of 50 persons in attendance. Despite the increase in capacity, the restrictions and safeguards will remain in effect, including:

·       Masks are worn by those attending Mass to protect against the projection of respiratory particles.

·       Pew seating arrangements were established to keep each person/family at least six feet from the next person/family.

·       Communion is offered with social-distancing guidelines adhered to in the form of six feet of space between recipients. The distribution of the shared consecrated wine for the faithful is still suspended.

·       Seats and pews are sanitized after each Mass.

·       The flow of foot traffic goes in one direction to avoid crowding.

·       All pews, knobs, door handles, bathrooms, altars, musical equipment and touched surfaces are cleaned after Masses.

·       Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are positioned in churches.

In addition, parishes will continue to keep track of attendance in a variety of ways, including sign-up sheets and online registration. For more information about the Diocese of Portland’s contact tracing policy, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/ContactTracingCompliance.

“Adhering to diocesan and CDC guidelines have enabled the successful reopening of our churches without incident,” said Bishop Robert Deeley. “After careful consideration and discussion, we have concluded that our worship spaces are large enough to permit additional participants at Masses. For instance, the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in Lewiston can seat over 2,000, but has been limited to just 50. Similar to our Catholic schools, which successfully reopened six weeks ago, the great size of our worship spaces allow us to accommodate more people.”

The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues to be in place, and the many live-streamed Masses being offered at churches around Maine (www.portlanddiocese.org/live-streamed-Masses) continue. Any changes to the current schedules of public Masses, live-streamed Masses, parking lot Masses and other special events will be updated on the Diocese of Portland’s Coronavirus Response page at www.portlanddiocese.org/response-coronavirus.