For over a year now ever since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the whole world down, the El Paso Catholic Diocese has been at the forefront of keeping their parishioners and their employees as safe as possible. From the beginning of the pandemic, the Diocese put into place very strict, some have said too strict, safety protocols for all of their facilities. The Diocese almost immediately stopped allowing the public to go to Sunday Mass and for a long time there were no funeral, wedding, or baptismal Masses being held at all.

Bishop Mark Seitz said that he took those dramatic safety steps because individual parishes were responsible for being able to maintain sanitized spaces as well as social distancing and face mask wearing during Masses. The bishop said that in many cases, parish churches couldn't afford the necessary products to sanitize their spaces and making sure that people maintained proper social distancing and face mask wearing could cause problems with people who might not want to do that. It was the better course of action to close Masses altogether.

Patricia Martinez
Patricia Martinez

The Diocese has been working with KVIA to broadcast Sunday Mass since late March of last year and they will continue to do so. In February the Diocese said that they would allow individual parishes to reopen to 25% capacity for Sunday Masses, and yesterday, the announced that the Diocese will be entering Phase 4 in the Diocesan Protocol for Church gatherings. That means that parish churches can allow gatherings to 50% capacity while still maintaining mask wearing inside parish facilities.

Current guidelines will apply to events in church as well as other facilities within the parish. Things like food preparation can also be done in parish facilities but only people who are fully vaccinated can cook or serve. If you are healthy and not sick with or exhibiting signs of COVID-19 you can still watch Mass on tv, but the Diocese is recommending that if you are fully vaccinated that you begin going back to Mass in person. The capacity limits for weddings and funerals will remain at a maximum of 75 people inside of a church and only 25 people will be allowed at a graveside service.

I have to hand it to the Diocese, they are doing their best to make sure everything is as safe as it can be. Good job!

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