On Wednesday, Bishop Mark J. Seitz issued a statement on the removal of State Mandates in regards mask wearing, limited occupancy and the effects on the Diocese of El Paso.
On March 2nd Governor Abbot removed Statewide Executive Orders mandating various actions to inhibit the spread of COVID 19 in our State. Among these actions the Governor has removed a statewide mandate that masks be worn in public places and limiting the numbers permitted in restaurants and other public places.
Some have asked whether, based upon these changes, there will be a change to the practices that have been mandated in our church facilities at this time. The short answer is no!
For one thing, as the Governor has often pointed out, churches are free to exercise their religious liberty and set their own protocols. The protocols we have established were intended to collaborate with State and local practices, but were not undertaken under the direction of these entities.
Although the numbers have improved in our region we continue to see in El Paso the highest percentage of hospitalizations due to COVID of any larger city in the State. We are also continuing to witness many deaths due to COVID. Our priests dedicated to this ministry continue to report many calls coming their way from families with a loved one suffering from this terrible virus.
Based upon recent declines in the numbers we have once again begun celebrating Funeral rites and Weddings. We are encouraged by the percentage of our community that has now received the vaccine, however, this community is not anywhere near a level that experts refer to as “herd immunity” and we will not reach that level for some time.
For these reasons the Catholic Church in El Paso County will not be making any changes at the present time to the protocols we have presently set in place. For the time being, churches will be limited to a maximum of 25% of their capacity.
Social distancing and masks will be required in all church facilities. It is our hope and prayer that the recent progress that has been made will continue and that, God willing, we will soon be able to relax these limitations. For the time being, however, we must stay the course for the good of all the members of the Church of El Paso and our community as well.
Let us continue to pray for all those presently suffering from this insidious virus and for all our loved ones who have died in this year of Pandemic.
Bp. Mark J. Seitz
Bishop of El Paso