Many Arizona churches allowing fully vaccinated parishioners to ditch face masks

For the first time in 14 months, Father Gregory Schlarb can see smiles during Mass.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale is following the new CDC guidelines this week that says fully vaccinated people can be indoors without a mask.

"Whether they’re comfortable with a mask or without a mask on, everyone is glad to be together, worship together," said Schlarb. "To see faces, to greet one another…it frees us up a little more."

Some parishioners said it’s a sign the pandemic is moving in the right direction.

"I’m just glad it’s winding down now," said parishioner Angela Acerno.

Worshipping has been a challenge in a pandemic. Last year on Palm Sunday, blessings became a drive through for the sake of social distancing.

Meanwhile, other churches have offered services without masks required for months. Father Schlarb says it allows for everyone to still do what feels right for them.

"We still have people that will watch from home and then come later for communion," said Schlarb.

Angela Acerno came to church with her mom Monday, happy to be around her congregation.

"It’s a wonderful feeling seeing people back in church," Acerno said. "It feels so nice."

It's a step forward, but it doesn’t mean there are no more steps.

"We still have people in the hospital we have to visit and anoint who are dying from COVID, so we’re still very vigilant," Father Schlarb said. "We pray for those people. pray for those health care workers."

Now, for the fully vaccinated, those prayers can be said without a mask if they choose.

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