EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Bishop Mark Seitz says Catholic churches in El Paso will remain closed, despite Governor Abbott’s decision to allow the Stay at Home order to expire this Friday.
Bishop Seitz says he discussed health trends with local leaders and learned El Paso had a later onset of community spread than other areas of Texas, and we’ve yet to flatten the curve. He says the large crowds the El Paso parishes bring together add risk and complexity to health and safety protocols.
One of the things Bishop Seitz says is a concern is the lack of sanitizer to adequately disinfect each church.
“Opening our churches would convey at this point a false sense of security about the risks of public gatherings here in El Paso. Many of our most fervent members are also people in the categories of highest risk, our senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions,” Bishop Seitz said in a written statement.
The Catholic Diocese will continue broadcasting mass until further notice. Priests will still be available for Sacrament of Reconciliation by appointment and for the Last Rites of those who are dying. The diocese is working to establish a protocol for hospital visits for these circumstances.
Deacons and priests are available to provide pastoral counsel and prayer over the phone. The Catholic Counseling office’s professional therapists are offering assistance in person and over the phone at this time on a sliding scale according to a person’s financial means.
Bishop Seitz says he will reevaluate opening the parishes in a few weeks. “It is our sincere hope that within weeks the prevalence of the virus in our community will be at such a level that will permit an opening of our churches at least for smaller gatherings and private visits. In the meantime, I would ask all the faithful of the Diocese of El Paso to continue to be united in prayer,” he said.