DC parishes expected to reopen with 10 person limit

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- After the mayor of Washington, D.C., lifted a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, public Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington are expected to resume with a limit of 10 people.

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday lifted the city’s stay-at-home order and allowed some businesses and public spaces to begin reopening by Friday.

Bowser still limited public gatherings, indoor and outdoor, to no more than 10 people. The mayor’s office confirmed to CNA on Wednesday that the 10-person limit applied to religious gatherings.

The Archdiocese of Washington said on its website that, starting May 25, all parishes could resume public Masses in areas where local governments had lifted stay-home restrictions; other parishes still subject to a local stay-home order would not offer public Masses until the order would be lifted.

As the archdiocese spans not only D.C. but also several adjacent Maryland counties, some Maryland parishes have already begun offering public Masses. The state began lifting stay-at-home restrictions in mid-May, but two counties bordering the city kept the original restrictions in place.

According to the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic Standard knowledged that parish reopenings remained limited as “the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are maintaining limits on the sizes of public gatherings to 10 people.”

On May 15, the archdiocese had released guidance for parishes on reopening, saying it “will continue to reflect the various limitations that those jurisdictions impose on public assemblies.”

The archdiocese has said that a team “has been planning for liturgical celebrations in the future,” but did not respond to requests for comment on a likely timetable for any further action.

The Washington transition out of a stay-at-home order allows for outdoor seating at restaurants, non-essential retail businesses to offer curbside service, barber shops and nail salons to serve customers by appointment only, and certain parks and public spaces to open.

The archdiocese is home to 139 parishes and mission parishes, and 655,000 Catholics. It is also home to major Catholic pilgrimage sites, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.

Early in the pandemic, a friar at the Franciscan Monastery in the city’s northeast succumbed to the new coronavirus and was the city’s first reported COVID-19 death.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is not a diocesan church, despite being located within the boundaries of the archdiocese. On March 12, the basilica announced it was continuing public Masses just hours before D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory curtailed public Masses in the archdiocese.

On the next day, March 13, a spokeswoman for the basilica confirmed to CNA that public Masses would still continue at the shrine notwithstanding Archbishop Gregory’s announcement; later on March 13, the basilica said it would suspend public Masses at the instruction of the archdiocese.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Basilica said the shrine “remains closed to the public.”

“Though the stay at home order was lifted, the state of emergency remains in effect limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer,” Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the shrine told CNA.

“On this account, we unfortunately are still unable to open to the public.”

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