Starting next weekend, Roman Catholic churches in southern Missouri can return to in-person mass.

Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop Edward Rice announced the reopening in a letter to pastors dated March 16. The change is effective with the Vigil Mass on Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. Rice cited the increasing number of vaccinations and recent declines in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Some restrictions are encouraged. Masks are recommended, but social distancing will not be required if masks are used and local ordinances don’t require it.

Communion will resume but priests and ministers “must sanitize and wear a mask” for the distribution.

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