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Indoor Masses can increase capacity under governor’s revised rules

Although parishes will be allowed to increase their capacity for indoor Masses, they still must maintain 6 feet of distance between parishioners from different households, as seen at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Bremerton in early June. Photo: Stephen Brashear Although parishes will be allowed to increase their capacity for indoor Masses, they still must maintain 6 feet of distance between parishioners from different households, as seen at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Bremerton in early June. Photo: Stephen Brashear

SEATTLE – Changes in the governor’s COVID-19 reopening plan announced June 18 mean more parishes around the archdiocese will soon be able to resume indoor Masses with more than 50 people in attendance.

In Phase 2 counties, indoor services are now allowed at 25% capacity or 200 people, whichever is less. In Phase 3 counties, that increases to a capacity of 50% or 400 people, whichever is less. (Both figures include volunteers.)

As of June 19, all counties in the Archdiocese of Seattle are in Phase 2 or Phase 3.

Before resuming indoor Masses or increasing the number who attend, each parish must submit a comprehensive reopening plan for approval by the archdiocese.

To date, 100 of the archdiocese’s 170 parishes and missions have received approval to resume Masses, according to Nick Schoen, chief of staff for the Vicar for Clergy office. Two parishes in King County have been approved to increase to Phase 2 capacity in time for this weekend, he said. No parishes have been approved for Phase 3 yet, he added.

St. James Cathedral announced on its website that it will begin celebrating public Masses inside the cathedral with up to 200 people in attendance — but registration is required and priority is being given to registered parishioners. The parish will continue livestreaming its 10:30 am Sunday Mass.

Health requirements for physical distancing (at least 6 feet between household groups) and facial coverings remain the same, Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg explained in a June 18 letter to priests and parish leaders. The governor’s revised operational guidelines include “all worship services, religious study classes, religious ceremonies, religious holiday celebrations, weddings, and funerals,” the bishop added.

“While this news is very welcome,” he wrote, “we must remember our primary concern is for the health and safety of everyone who attends public Masses. Our responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy environment increases along with the number of people attending Mass. Thank you for all your efforts in fulfilling this important responsibility.”

“I continue to pray for you and I ask that you continue to pray for everyone impacted by COVID- 19,” Bishop Mueggenborg’s letter concluded.

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