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SAN DIEGO – The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said Friday that he’s lifting restrictions on Mass attendance that have been in place for 15 months amid the pandemic.

In a letter sent to priests and parishes Thursday night, Bishop Robert W. McElroy announced the changes with “a profound sense of joy, hope and gratitude.” The move comes after recent shifts to state and local public health guidelines and was made in consultation with Bishops John Dolan and Ramón Bejarano as well as the executive committee of the Presbyteral Council, McElroy said.

“All of the restrictions on capacity and spacing for worship and all limitations on meetings and social activities are lifted as of today,” he said in the letter released Friday. “Masks will still be optional, recognizing that the CDC recommends the practice of wearing masks for those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

Although the diocese eliminated restrictions on receiving Communion by hand or by tongue, leaders plan to determine when to reintroduce the shared cup “sometime in the future,” he said.

“It is recommended that non-family members bringing Eucharist to the sick should be vaccinated,” he said.

Those 14 and under in faith formation classes will still be required to wear masks until vaccines are available for the age group. Additionally, the blanket dispensation which exempted Catholics from attending Sunday Mass ends July 1.

“I cannot end this letter without conveying my profound thanks to you for the enormous pastoral compassion, zeal, creativity and collaboration that you have demonstrated during the past 15 months,” McElroy said.