LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were directed this morning to prepare to resume church services as early as June 3 for private prayer and Sunday Mass as soon as June 7.
In a letter to parishes, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles, in consultation with public health officials, presented guidelines for reopening “based on the safest practices'' that include limiting up to 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 attendees for the first 21 days after reopening.
“As we enter this new moment, it is important to remember that the coronavirus is still out there, it is still contagious, and it is still dangerous,'' Gomez said. “So, we need to proceed with prudence and caution and concern to protect our most vulnerable parishioners. Let us continue to pray and stand together with our people as we begin to reopen our churches and our society.''
The plans' first step calls on parishes to implement a series of sanitary measures, including a deep cleaning of facilities and making cleaning materials available to “disinfect points of contact after each visitor departs,'' the letter said.
Missalette and hymnal books are recommended to be removed, holy water fonts emptied and statues and other frequently touched objects should be cordoned off.
Per the guidelines recommended by Gomez, “The Blessed Sacrament may be exposed for silent adoration by the faithful, but no Benediction or other organized/communal prayer should take place.''
Masses will continue to be live-streamed and church members who are vulnerable to COVID-19 should stay home.
Individual confessions can be heard, but priest and penitent should adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay at least six feet apart, wear face coverings and wipe down any surfaces touched, the archbishop recommended.
Parishes will be allowed to move to step two as early as June 3 and celebrate Mass, with social distancing measures in place, communion only being offered in the form of bread placed in the hand and priests will sanitize their hands before and after distributing communion.
Choirs will be replaced in step two and people will be dismissed after Mass by groups of pews, Gomez recommended.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the largest Catholic diocese in the United States. The Archdiocese is comprised of five pastoral regions covering three counties, Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.