Catholic churches in Maine will allow for 50 percent capacity at all Masses starting later this month, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Friday.

The announcement came shortly before Gov. Janet Mills unveiled a new plan loosening restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings and business activity. Starting March 26, the limit on all indoor gatherings increases to 50 percent of capacity. That will go up to 75 percent on May 24, according to Mills.

Catholic churches across the state will increase capacity to 50 percent starting on March 26, two days before the start of Holy Week on Palm Sunday, according to the diocese.

“I know that expanding our capacity for in-person worship at the start of Holy Week will bring great joy to many parishioners who have been unable to attend Mass as they wish due to attendance restrictions. Now, they can participate in the most solemn week of the year as we, together, remember the events which are at the heart of our Christian faith,” Bishop Robert Deeley said in a statement.

In February, Gov. Janet Mills updated gathering size limits for houses of worship to 50 people or five people per 1,000 square feet of space, whichever is greater. The previous limit was 50 people. At the time, Deeley said the new executive order was “unacceptable” and would increase capacity levels in only a handful of Catholic churches.

Requirements for mask wearing and social distancing will remain in place when the capacity increases, according to the diocese. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will also continue, as will live-streamed Masses.

Since in-person gatherings at Catholic churches began last June, more than 25,000 Masses have been celebrated at 141 churches in Maine, according to the diocese.

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