EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — All Catholic churches in El Paso will be open 100 percent starting June 1, the Diocese of El Paso announced Saturday. Masks will still be required during all services.
This applies to Sunday and weekday Masses, weddings, funerals, baptisms and other sacraments, and other prayer or liturgical gatherings inside churches. Gatherings in other indoor spaces, such as group meetings or classes, can be at 100% capacity if all participants have been vaccinated. Officials said church members should still sanitize their hands when attending services.
When possible, those attending services will be spaced out as much as possible to encourage social distancing.
Bishop Mark Seitz said the decision to open at full capacity was made as more adults get vaccinated and infection and hospitalization rates continue to decrease.
“I think it’s a very significant step for all of the churches of El Paso County to be able to say, ‘we’ve come this far. Our churches can be full again.’ I hope it also sends a message to all of our members that we need you to fill the church. It’s time, it’s time to come back,” Bishop Mark Seitz said. “We’re not making believe that we are completely through this very difficult time of pandemic, we think there is still reason for caution.”
Below is additional guidance from the Diocese:
- Having learned what is most helpful in preventing the transmission of the coronavirus, which spreads as airborne droplets, churches are no longer required to sanitize pews after each liturgy or check temperatures as people enter. Social distancing markers, like those for the Communion procession, are similarly no longer necessary. The water for baptizing multiple children or adults can be from the same font (though non-flowing water should be properly drained afterward) and the customary method of anointing at Confirmation (using one vessel of Chrism without an instrument) can resume.
- Communion may only be received in the hand, a manner that is reverent and part of the long-standing tradition of the Church and only in the form of the Body of Christ (the host), not the shared chalice. Holy water fonts that contain standing water, like those at church entrances, are also not yet permitted.
Seitz said that kermes, or church bazaars, and church dinners are still up in the air as the community learns to navigate large gatherings.
“We can’t forget this virus is still a deadly virus and unfortunately, we are going to have to learn to live with it,” Seitz said.
Seitz also encouraged community members to get vaccinated, saying the vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to protect oneself and others from COVID-19.
“We believe that it’s still extremely important to get vaccinated,” he said. “An added measure of precaution is very important, the vaccine does not provide 100-percent assurance you’ll never get; it makes it much less likely and less likely you’ll have a serious case.”