UPDATED May 7, 2020 7:15 P.M.
The Archdiocese of Denver said public Masses will resume this weekend in a limited capacity and with strict guidelines.
Mass schedules will vary from parish to parish, but the services won’t be held the same way they were in early March. Attendees are required to wear a mask, and people should practice social distancing.
“What we can say is that extreme caution will be used, that strict physical distancing will be observed, and that pastors will consult the guidance issued by state and local health authorities,” a letter from Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez read Thursday.
At-risk groups and people who don’t feel comfortable attending services should continue to stay at home, Denver's Archdiocese said. Sick people and those who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 should also not attend services.
The state is working diligently to create clear guidelines for reopening places of worship, a spokesman with Gov. Jared Polis’ office said Thursday afternoon. Polis is grateful the church is planning to follow physical distancing guidelines.
"The Governor joins the Catholic Church in asking parishioners over age 65 to remain at home whenever possible and in the enforcement social distancing and safety protocols consistent with state law and health guidance," the statement said. "The Governor celebrates that for many Coloradans, our faith and spiritual communities are critical to our well-being, especially in a time of crisis."
Catholics who choose to go back to church should check with their parish ahead of time to see whether it’s open and what rules to follow, the Archdiocese said. Each parish will set its own schedule and attendance restrictions so parishioners may not be able to attend services every weekend. Families who live together can sit together but each group should be spaced more than 6 feet apart. Some pews may even be roped off.
People should be open to attending Mass during the week and potentially in gymnasiums, parish halls or outside. Archbishop Aquilla eased restrictions that required people to attend Mass in person on Sundays and on Holy Days, and that Mass should be held in the church.
Temporary changes have also been made to the liturgy. People receiving communion should approach eucharistic ministers and priests wearing a mask, receive the communion bread in their hand and step to the side to remove their mask to consume it. Wine will not be given out.
“Our parish staffs will make every effort to take appropriate precautions including increased cleaning but parishioners should understand there is an assumed risk anytime they enter a public space,” Father Randy Dollins with Denver’s Archdiocese said in a video.
The reopening comes nearly two months after churches were forced to close because of COVID-19. More than 210,000 people attend Mass in Colorado, according to the Denver Archdiocese.
“As Catholics, we maintain that participation in the Sacraments is more important than many other commercial activities considered to be essential,” the Archdiocese said.
Colorado still has a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. The governor's office said people should still keep a 6-foot distance between each other and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected before and after any in-person gathering.
Other faith groups have decided to wait until the end of May before possibly reopening.
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