The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist “is not something we can experience virtually,” Archbishop Nelson Perez wrote in a May 24 letter to Catholics in the archdiocese, on Pentecost Sunday. “Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is real and our personal presence is required to receive it.”
In his letter, Archbishop Perez announced a new initiative that will “involve the entire Archdiocese,” and will “feature an invitation for everyone to recognize more profoundly the irreplaceable need to be in person for the celebration of Sunday Mass.” Perez read his letter “Nothing Compares to Being There” at the 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
He affirmed that “as Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.” The Eucharist deserves our own reflection and appreciation, he wrote.
Perez acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic brought many changes to Sunday worship, while noting that for a while, parishioners were not able to be present for the celebration of Mass at all. He praised the helpfulness of livestreaming Mass during “difficult months of the pandemic,” but added that “nothing compares to being there.”
“For the last several months, many have been a part of Sunday Mass through live streaming,” Perez wrote. “Now, as the pandemic wanes and restrictions are lifting, I invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese to make their way back to the in-person celebration of the Mass.”
The official invitation, to be released in September 2021, will be created by parish leaders and pastors, and will implore the faithful to return to Mass in-person.
Perez’s letter added that while the initiative begins in September, parishioners are encouraged to attend Mass once again now.
The obligation to attend Sunday Mass was dispensed for the faithful of the archdiocese last year. Archbishop Perez’s most recent letter does not lift this dispensation. He ended his letter in prayer asking God to “pour out His Spirit upon us and enkindle in us a renewed desire to be present at the Eucharistic Feast.”
“Come home to the in person celebration of Mass,” Perez wrote.
The invitation back to Mass follows announcements by other bishops around the country, inviting the faithful back to Mass in-person.