It wasn’t the usual Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 25, with only several dozen people attending each indoor service in a church that can typically welcome thousands of parishioners.
Public health officials have asked that people attend Mass remotely or in outdoor settings while the coronavirus pandemic rages on. But the county recently modified its order to permit indoor religious services, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided this week to allow churches to go ahead with the services.
Still, many parishioners chose to stay away.
At the same time, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in an interview Friday he was happy to provide a space to commune indoors – while socially distancing.
“It is a blessing to be able to do it indoors,” he said, “because we feel the blessing of God in a very strong way and the sense of community.”
While the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels normally accommodates up to 3,000 people, its leaders have decided to cap indoor services to 130 people for the time being. Friday’s 9 a.m. Mass, for example, was attended in-person by about 80 parishioners and viewed online via live webstreaming by several thousand more people, according to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
“Given the size of the cathedral, it’s safe to celebrate Mass indoors,” Gomez said, while also encouraging individuals with medical conditions to stay home or to attend a service outdoors.
In addition to wearing face masks that covered the mouth and nose and maintaining six feet of distance between households — as required by the county — parishioners attending the indoor services were asked to adhere to additional safety protocols put in place by the Archdiocese. For example, they were instructed not to sing indoors and to step to the side to eat the wafer after receiving Communion in their hands.
Although Friday’s services appeared to go off without incident, the decision to allow indoor religious services to resume has had its share of controversy.
Until last weekend, the county prohibited indoor services. It lifted the prohibition only after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California lower courts to reconsider worship restrictions.
Still, public health officials have continued to stress that it’s not safe to congregate indoors.
“Attending an indoor service will result in transmission of COVID-19 and additional hospitalizations that the healthcare system cannot handle at this time,” the county’s public health department said in a statement this week.
“No matter what a Superior Court judge says and given what’s happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you,” the statement went on to say.
L.A. County, the epicenter of the coronavirus surge in the state, on Thursday set a single-day record for COVID-19 deaths, at 148. That same day, it also set a record for the greatest number of COVID patients in the hospital at one time, at 6,708 patients.
Source: Orange County Register