The Vatican has issued a decree this week allowing priests to celebrate up to four Masses on Christmas Day, on New Year’s Day, and on Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said the decree aims to allow for more Masses to encourage the participation of the faithful “in view of the situation brought about by the worldwide spread of the pandemic.”
“This year only, permission is granted to say extra Masses on the following days: Christmas Day (Dec. 25); the Solemnity of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God (Jan. 1); and (Jan. 6),” read the decree.
“The concession is granted ‘whenever [the Ordinary] deems it necessary for the benefit of the faithful,’” it added.
The Code of Canon Law states that “If there is a shortage of priests, the local ordinary can allow priests to celebrate twice a day for a just cause, or if pastoral necessity requires it, even three times on Sundays and holy days of obligation.”
Normally, a Catholic priest may celebrate Mass no more than three times on a single day.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, signed the decree on Dec. 16.
Restrictions in place in some parts of the world, aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, limit the number of people present at liturgies and some parishes have been offering extra Masses on Sundays and during the week to allow more people to attend.
During the pandemic, some bishops have dispensed Catholics in their diocese from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation if attendance would put them at risk of contracting the virus.