Photo courtesy Diocese of El Paso
Thursday afternoon, the Diocese of El Paso announced that – due to a decline from the number of cases of COVID in the El Paso
community and, most importantly, a decline in the number of hospitalizations – churches in El Paso County will now have the opportunity to begin a gradual process of opening.
“The danger of the presence of this virus in the El Paso community is still of great concern. This is not a time for the El Paso Community to let its guard down, but the diocese believes that if cases continue their decline, the diocese can safely relax restrictions,” Diocesan officials shared.
Under the direction of Bishop Mark Seitz, churches in El Paso County will now re-open to Phase I Protocol for Church Gatherings during the time of Pandemic in El Paso County effective December 18, 2020.
Phase 1 states:
Church gatherings remain limited to less than 10 people. But churches where Disinfection and Social Distancing norms are strictly followed may be open for a time during the day for personal prayer by individuals. Scheduled times for Confession may also be offered, provided the Social Distancing norms below are strictly followed.
If the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to remain low, The Diocese of El Paso will then move into Phase 3 Protocol of Church Gatherings during the time of Pandemic on Thursday December 24, 2020.
An announcement will be made on Tuesday, December 22nd finalizing this reopening at Phase 3 on Christmas Eve. The solemnity of Christmas, which is an Octave celebration and can serve as optional days to attend Mass and celebrate fully the Solemnity of the Incarnation of the Lord.
Phase 3 states:
Churches where disinfection and social distancing norms are strictly followed may also resume gatherings for Sunday Mass at 25% capacity. Gatherings at 25% capacity for Mass on weekdays, baptisms, Eucharistic exposition for 1–2 hours, and prayer during the day are permitted as well during Phase 3. Funeral Masses, services in funeral homes and weddings remain suspended within Phase 3.
The Diocese of El Paso, in partnership with KVIA and Entravison, will be televising and broadcasting via social media Masses for Christmas Eve.
The schedule is as follows:
Christmas Eve Masses from St. Patrick Cathedral with Bishop Mark Seitz Children’s Mass at 5pm Live on the CW
Christmas Eve Mass in Spanish at 7PM live on Entravision’s Facebook
Christmass Eve Mass in English at 9pm Live on KVIA
If there should happen to be a Mass scheduled from 10pm – 12pm, on Christmas Eve, the diocese has consulted with the County Judge’s Office to ensure exemption to those people attending mass.
“The Diocese remains vigilant to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus and is asking the faithful to take these precautions during this time of pandemic as well,” officials added.
“Though church gatherings are resuming, some individuals should not attend Mass or other church gatherings at this time. This includes those who are sick and those in the at-risk population: persons who are 65 or older, especially those with chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; chronic heart disease; severe obesity; diabetes; high blood pressure; chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; liver disease; or weakened immune system.”
All Catholics of the Diocese of El Paso remain dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation (canon 1247). However, the faithful unable to gather for Mass are encouraged to participate with televised and live-streamed Masses every Sunday from home and to incorporate a routine of prayer at other times during the week.
The requirement to receive Communion during the Easter Season (canon 920) may be fulfilled at another time during the year.
Because church capacities will be so limited, the faithful are highly encouraged to attend Mass on a weekday if they are able particularly during the Octave of Christmas from December 26 through January 1, so that greater capacity may be available at Sunday Masses for those who cannot attend during the week.
Diocese officials ask that residents check with their parish to learn the times that the church will be open and Confessions will be offered in Phase 1. Also check with your parish website or call to determine when Masses will be offered and whether a previous reservation is required in order to stay within the capacity of the church.