MILWAUKEE — The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee reopened Mass to the public over the weekend in many city churches, despite an order that still bans gatherings of more than 10 people.
Archbishop Jerome Listeck told the Journal Sentinel said that though much smaller in scale than usual, it gave congregants the ability “to dip their toe in the water.”
The churches are limiting attendance to 25 percent of capacity.
In response to the pandemic, the City of Milwaukee’s order limiting gatherings to groups of 10 people or fewer remains in effect. The archdiocese has said, though, that it considers religious gatherings to be essential.
The archdiocese has made several changes to the process of worship to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including limiting singing that may increase the spread of the virus.
Other archdiocesan directives include:
— Priests and deacons over age 65 or those with pre-existing health conditions must first receive permission before publicly celebrating Mass.
— Priests cannot celebrate at two different parishes on the same weekend.
— Signage should be placed on entrance doors asking anyone with fever or flu-like symptoms not to enter the church.
— Hymnals should be removed from the pews, and bulletins should not be distributed.
— Communion must be received in the hand, and those distributing Communion must wash their hands before and after distribution.
In addition, parishes should ensure social distancing is respected in churches, and the archdiocese encourages the use of face masks by those attending Mass.
Listecki told pastors to reopen their churches only if they believed they could safely accommodate congregants. About 45 parishes have remained closed, including a cluster on Milwaukee’s south side, where coronavirus case numbers have been high.
The archdiocese says the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still suspended until July 5.
Crux staff contributed to this report.