As the cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky have risen in July, Gov. Andy Beshear has urged Kentuckians to avoid large gatherings. Last week, in consultation with the Kentucky Council of Churches, the governor suggested churches take a two-Sunday pause in in-person worship.
In a letter to priests July 25, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville would continue holding Masses at reduced capacity and ask pastors to “double down on issues such as social distancing and mask wearing.” He also offered a reminder that he has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligation.
“The Catholic bishops of the Commonwealth of Kentucky discussed this request late this week and decided not to ask parishes to suspend worship because of the very good job Catholic parishes have been doing with what has been asked of us, e.g. social distancing, mask-wearing, hygiene, cleaning, etc. and because of possible confusion on the part of the faithful. I also am aware that many of you have already scheduled weddings (some of which had been previously canceled), funerals, and so on. We sent a letter summarizing our thoughts to Rev. Kent Gilbert, president of the board of the Kentucky Council of Churches and copied Rocky Adkins, senior advisor to Governor Beshear.”
The letter to the Kentucky Council of Churches said: “In the vast majority of our parishes, prudent caution on the part of our people has kept our crowd sizes well within the capacity guidelines. Given the rising number of cases, attendance may decline further.
“In response to the latest data on the virus’ spread, we recommit to these efforts and will especially emphasize mask-wearing as an important factor in being able to safely gather for worship during the pandemic. … In the interest of avoiding any disruption of the above-mentioned efforts, and to avoid confusion among the faithful, we believe that continuing to work toward full compliance with the relevant guidelines is the prudent course of action. At this time, we will not be suspending the public celebration of Mass, but we will continue to monitor the situation. We look forward to continuing dialogue on this and other measures in the weeks ahead as we navigate the weeks and months to come.”
In his letter to pastors, the archbishop said, “In light of the very legitimate concern about rising cases, I ask all pastors to double down on issues such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Please remind parishioners that I have issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation for the Archdiocese of Louisville, until further notice. Encourage anyone who is sick or living with someone who is sick to stay home and take advantage of live-streamed offerings or Mass of the Air.”
On July 24, Kentucky reported its second-highest daily total of new cases of COVID-19, with 797 new cases. That brings the total number of positive cases to 25,931 in Kentucky. A total of 691 Kentuckians have died of the virus, according to the governor’s office. The record daily total of new cases was set a week ago, on July 19, with a total of 979 new cases.