It's been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the whole world down, and one of the public entities that has worked very hard to keep El Pasoans as safe as they can is the El Paso Catholic Diocese. From the beginning of the pandemic, the Diocese has been very strict, some have said too strict, about their safety protocols. When the pandemic hit, the Diocese almost immediately stopped allowing the public to go to Sunday Mass. They also put a moratorium on funerals, weddings, and baptismal Masses.

When he put those measures into place, Bishop Mark Seitz said that he did so because individual parishes were responsible for maintaining sanitized spaces, social distancing, and face mask wearing during Masses but not all parish churches could afford the necessary products to sanitize their spaces. Seitz also said that it would be difficult for individual churches to make sure that people maintained proper social distancing and face mask wearing without having to deal with people who wouldn't wear them and cause problems. He said it was the better course of action to close Masses altogether.

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Fast forward to this past weekend and the announcement by the Diocese and Bishop Seitz that the restrictions on capacity would be lifted throughout the Diocese. You will have to wear a mask still and that, according to the Diocese, "applies to Sunday and weekday Masses, weddings, funerals, baptisms and other sacraments, and other prayer or liturgical gatherings inside churches." Other indoor gatherings can happen but are only open to those who are vaccinated.

Diocese officials say that they are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Because our churches are places of close gathering indoors where singing and vocal responses are common, our churches will continue to require the wearing of masks for now. As for the mask requirement, the Diocese says because of the closeness of parishioners, singing, and vocal responses during Mass they aren't going to drop that requirement for now.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.