BOSTON (AP) — Roman Catholics across Massachusetts are being called back to Sunday Mass.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston as well as the bishops of Springfield and Fall River in similar statements Wednesday announced that the faithful are once again required to attend Mass starting the weekend of June 19-20.

Houses of worship have either been closed or open under capacity limits for the past year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and services have either been broadcast or held remotely.

O'Malley said Father's Day was an appropriate time to lift the dispensation of the Sunday Mass obligation.

“In this year of Saint Joseph, who was always a faithful observer of the sabbath, we chose Father’s Day as an appropriate day to encourage all of our people, and especially our families, to return to the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist," he said in his letter to parishioners.

Mass is a central part of being Catholic, Springfield Bishop William Byrne said.

“The benefit of that is every time we go to Mass, we encounter Jesus Christ, we get to be together, we get to celebrate the obligation and the goodness of keeping the sabbath holy,” he said.

The obligation to attend Mass does not apply to those who are ill or homebound, the bishops said.

“To all of those who have not been able to be with us during this last year, we look forward to welcoming you back to the celebration of the Mass," Fall River Bishop Edgar da Cunha said.

Worcester Bishop Robert McManus restored the Mass obligation for his parishioners last month.


VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 100 Wednesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by five.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,559 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 662,400.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were about 170 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 60 in intensive care units.

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The average age of those hospitalized was 60. There were an estimated 3,500 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.


IMMUNIZATIONS

More than 8.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts as of Wednesday.

That includes nearly 4.3 million first doses and more than 3.6 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

There have been more than 260,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

Nearly 3.9 million people have been fully immunized.

Gov. Charlie Baker has set a goal of 4.1 million people in the state fully vaccinated.


AMUSEMENT PARK VACCINES

Six Flags New England is hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the park later this month, and each person who gets a no-cost shot will receive two free tickets to the Agawam theme park.

This effort is through a partnership with Baystate Medical Center. The clinic will run from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the park's general parking lot and will offer the single dose, Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Preregistration is required.

The park fully reopened last month.


Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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