On Saturday, Diocese of El Paso officials said they are ready to welcome diocesan faithful at 100% capacity beginning June 1, 2021.
“However, because our churches are places of close gathering indoors where singing and vocal responses are common, our churches
will continue to require the wearing of masks for now,” diocesan officials shared.
More than one year after the pandemic began, we know more about how the novel coronavirus is transmitted and how to better protect ourselves and each other from Covid-19.
Many adults and teens have become vaccinated, as well, which continues to build the immunity of the entire community. With all this in mind, and following the latest guidance from the CDC and WHO, the churches of the Diocese of El Paso on June 1, 2021, will enter a new phase of its pandemic protocols:
• The capacity for church gatherings is increased to 100%, but masks must be worn by all members of the assembly and everyone should sanitize their hands when entering the church. 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.
• Though the CDC has recently recommended that fully vaccinated people may resume activities without wearing a mask, there are still far too many people in our community who are not vaccinated (including all children under age 12). Because our churches are places of close gathering indoors where singing and vocal responses are common, our churches will continue to require the wearing of masks for now.
• The vaccine is safe, effective, and the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19. Bishop Mark joins Pope Francis, the Vatican curia, and the bishops of the United States in wholeheartedly urging every eligible person to become vaccinated as soon as they can. Because getting vaccinated is a powerful act of charity, our churches are already working with health authorities to provide opportunities for people to get vaccinated at the same places where they celebrate their faith.
• 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.
• However, since the source of airborne droplets is the nose and mouth, some pandemic- related protocols will continue for now. 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.
Diocesan officials add that, with these changes, they hope to allow more people to gather to celebrate their faith, but in a prudent way that keeps everyone safe.
“We continue to pray for a prompt end to the pandemic, as well as for all those who have died from this disease. But we also pray for the patience to endure what we hope are the waning months of pandemic-related restrictions, as well as for the courage to perform everyday acts of Christian charity to keep each other healthy.”