Catholic churches in North Dakota allowed to hold in-person Mass starting next week

Bishop John Folda says he'll lift the suspension due to coronavirus pandemic

Fargo's Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church. Special to The Forum

FARGO — Catholics in North Dakota can return to their churches for Mass beginning Monday, May 4, with some restrictions in place as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.

In a Thursday, April 30, news release, Fargo Bishop John Folda announced he would lift the six-week suspension of in-person Mass. The Bismarck Diocese said its churches can begin Mass starting Wednesday, May 6.

Parishioners are not required to attend Mass on Sundays or Holy Days until further notice, and those who are sick or are more vulnerable to the illness should not attend.

“I am grateful for the patience and cooperation of the faithful during this difficult time without the ability to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, and I once again call upon their good will to observe the guidelines listed below for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the entire community," Folda said in the release.

The announcement comes after Gov. Doug Burgum announced guidelines for reopening businesses that were previously closed or had restrictions on operations. Burgum did not sign an executive order requiring churches in North Dakota to stop in-house services, but many voluntarily did so.


Those who attend church in the Fargo Diocese will be asked to practice good hand hygiene, stay at least 6 feet apart from others unless they live in the same household and wear cloth face coverings.

"Please remember that face coverings are not just for one’s own protection, but also for the protection of others," the release said. "Children under 2 years of age are not recommended to wear a face covering."

A congregation may limit the amount of people who are allowed into a church, but no specific guideline on that was given in the release.

Attendees will not be allowed to sing during Mass since coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets. Holy Communion will be administered in the hand and not on the tongue.

The sign of peace, or the part of Mass during which parishioners shake hands in a gesture of offering peace, has been omitted from services, and other forms of physical contact are discouraged, the diocese said.

The Fargo Diocese also will continue to livestream Masses at

In the Bismarck Diocese:

  • Family households may sit together in one pew and all other persons must maintain social distancing, leaving every other pew empty.
  • Communion will be offered in the form of the consecrated host only, received in the hand and distributed by clergy or instituted acolytes.
  • The exchange of the sign of peace remains suspended.
  • Directives for weddings, funerals and baptisms are modified to allow immediate and extended family members to be present, but they must maintain social distancing. All other restrictions regarding these sacraments remain in place.
  • The sacrament of reconciliation (penance) will remain available only behind a screen. Persons must maintain social distancing while waiting to celebrate the sacrament.

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April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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