Has the Sunday obligation to go to Mass ever been dispensed of due to some serious communcable disease?

I am interested in knowing if Rome (the pope) ever permitted the faithful to refrain from going to Sunday Mass due to some communicable disease or other historical serious circumstances due to disease?

I am aware that the sick and infirm are dispensed of this holy obligation, but I would like to know if this ever extended to an entire region or area? I will deliberately exclude Catholic soldiers during times of wars.

A few years ago, in our diocese, the bishop suppressed the sign of peace for certain length of time due to the avian flue epidemic. But the sign of peace is already optional during the celebration of the Mass.

  • Why would they need to? If someone can't attend through no fault of theirs they aren't expected and no sin is committed. Whether it is an individual or a whole group affected the same rule applies!
    – Grasper
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 16:05
  • @Grasper The question involves a general dispensation for all the faithful, not just for those afflicted by a serious illness.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 0:02
  • It doesn't matter if a caregiver can't go it's not his fault otherwise there will always be people in a group who can attend. So no need to issue these dispensations but there should always be an effort to have a mass.
    – Grasper
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


The bishops of Mexico suspended public worship in all of Mexico beginning July 31, 1926, during the Cristero war.

Also, commenting on 1917 Code's Canon 1245 §2 (cf. 1983 can. 1245), canonist Dom Charles Augustine, O.S.B., cites Benedict XIV's Constitution Libentissime, which permitted dispensation from Lenten fasting due to a diocese-wide influenza outbreak. Dispensation from Sunday obligation could be done for similar reasons.

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