Pastors and diocese officials said they anticipated a gradual increase in attendance, but it was too soon to know if numbers went up Saturday.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us in terms of convincing people of the value of in-person celebration of Mass,” said Monsignor Robert Zapfel, pastor of St. Leo and St. Benedict parishes in Amherst.
Zapfel said Catholic churches are very safe places to gather, and “if you can go to the grocery store, if you can go to have your hair done, you can certainly come to Mass.”
This weekend on the Catholic liturgical calendar marks the Feast of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the Catholic belief that bread and wine change into the actual body and blood of Christ during Mass through a process called transubstantiation.
The Rev. James Waite said in his homily Saturday that it was a “very appropriate” occasion for the in-person Mass attendance obligation to return.
“Coming to gather to be community and to receive the body and blood of Christ is central to our identity as Christians. Central to what Jesus taught us to do,” said Waite, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport. “It is what liturgy is all about.”
Any parishioner who is too frail or sick to attend Mass is still excused from the obligation, the bishops said in their statement, which also encouraged Catholics to use their “prudential judgment” in determining whether it is unsafe to attend Mass.
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