Public Masses to continue, archbishop says

Parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville, including St. Agnes Church, above, received the archbishop’s permission to reopen to the public with precautions and limited capacity in May. These precautions, including social distancing and face coverings, continue to be part of the protocols for public worship. (Record File Photo by Jessica Able)

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise throughout the state and nation, Gov. Andy Beshear has recommended the suspension of in-person worship services.

Last week, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, along with the other three Catholic bishops in Kentucky, decided to continue with public Masses while maintaining the safeguards already in place.

In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Louisville Nov. 19, Archbishop Kurtz acknowledged “the difficult circumstances Gov. Beshear is seeking to navigate” and said he appreciated “his concern for the common good.”

The archbishop reiterated the importance of adhering to safety protocols, such as social distancing, wearing a face covering and practicing proper hand-washing.

“At this time, we will not be suspending public liturgies but encourage all to act in a responsible way that respects the seriousness of this pandemic and the health and safety of all,” he said.

The opportunity to watch liturgies remotely via live-streaming will continue, as will the dispensation from the obligation to physically attend Mass, the archbishop said.

In the statement, Archbishop Kurtz thanked priests and school leaders for adopting the recommendation to move in-person instruction at Catholic schools to remote learning beginning on Nov. 23 and extending through Jan 8.

“I also encouraged the continued careful observance of our ‘Healthy at Worship’ directives, which include mask-wearing, social distancing and careful hygiene, as they celebrate public liturgies. I believe these guidelines have served us well,” he said.

The “healthy at worship” guidelines direct churches to “arrange seating to allow at least six feet between parishioners, with an exception made for members of the same household.” As a result, churches are operating at a reduced capacity, some at a third of their usual capacity.

On Nov. 22, Kentucky reported 2,194 new cases of COVID-19. A total of 1,787 Kentuckians have died of the virus, according to the governor’s office. The state’s positivity rate stands at 9.19%. The record daily total of new cases was set Nov. 19 with 3,649 new cases and 30 coronavirus-related deaths.

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