As the state’s COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen, Catholic churches can begin holding in-person services for congregational worship as early as this weekend.
The Diocese of Baton Rouge said in-person worship services can resume, starting with Vigil Masses Saturday afternoon, if churches adhere to strict directives regarding occupancy, social distancing and sanitation, according to Dan Borne’ of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
All the diocese’s parishes are expected to celebrate public Masses the weekend of May 23, Borne’ wrote.
Baton Rouge Bishop Michael G. Duca wrote in a letter to local Catholics that Sunday Mass obligation will continue to be dispensed indefinitely.
Duca urged those who are sick to stay home and not return to church until they have been asymptomatic for at least three days. Anyone particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, as well as anyone who does not feel comfortable attending public Mass, are encouraged to stay home. Masses will continue to be live-streamed.
Parishioners will be required to wear masks during services, and they are encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer, according to Duca.
To adhere to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ directives regarding COVID-19, pastors may need to consider the following, according to Duca:
- Arrangement of seating so there is proper physical distancing. People must sit six feet apart in all directions, though families and those living in the same household can sit together.
- Possible temporary additions of more Sunday and daily Mass times to meet the parish needs.
- Deciding if a reservation process is needed, at least initially, to spread attendance over all the Masses available during the week.