Abp. Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has announced three simultaneous eucharistic processions throughout the city scheduled for Sept. 20 that will rendezvous outside the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. The processions will commence at St. Anthony, St. Patrick and Star of the Sea parishes, walk past city hall to the cathedral, where multiple safe outdoor Holy Masses will be celebrated in English and Spanish.
In his Sept. 13 homily, according to the diocesan website, the archbishop called the faithful to participate in the processions as a public call for reopening churches for worship at a level consistent with other activities in San Francisco.
"I invite you all to participate in this public witness of our faith, and to invite your friends and fellow Catholics to join as well," the archbishop implored.
Cordileone said that in advance of the procession, the archdiocese has ordered scores of banners — 100 in English, 15 in Spanish and 5 in Chinese — that read: "We Are Essential: Free the Mass!"
The San Francisco prelate has already petitioned government officials to relax oppressive rules that have deprived the faithful of Holy Mass. In a statement dated Aug. 31, the archbishop called on mayor London Breed, public health director Dr. Grant Colfax, and health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón to lift the extreme restrictions on public worship.
"This denial of access to safe outdoor public worship is a serious deprivation of our rights as Americans under the First Amendment and our spiritual needs as people of faith," Cordileone declared.
Cordileone further urged the faithful to sign a petition to tell San Francisco officials: "We need the Eucharist. We want the Mass!"
Using several appeals, he pleaded with the government officials to open up venues to worship.
First, he pointed out that lifting the Mass restrictions was consistent with their own expressed values. He said:
I am grateful that the mayor and other government leaders in San Francisco acknowledge the importance of mental and spiritual health to the overall well-being of our people, in addition to physical and economic health. I am therefore calling on the mayor and her public health officials to, at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship.
He underscored the importance of the Mass for Catholics: "Particularly for us as Catholics, attending the Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in person is the source and the summit of our Faith, and we have shown we can celebrate the Mass safely," he said.
The archbishop further compared the extreme strictures placed on San Francisco worshippers compared to other places and other activities.
"San Francisco is the only government in the entire Bay Area that restricts public gatherings to 12 people out of doors. Ours and others' faith is being treated as less important than a trip to the hardware store, or a nice dinner out on the patio," he pointed out.
The archbishop's announcement of the processions has come just five days after San Francisco officials posted news of an accelerated reopening on Sept. 14 of nail and hair salons, as well as hotels and gyms. Indoor massage businesses, tattoo and piercing services, outdoor family entertainment centers, drive-in movies and outdoor tour buses and boats can also reopen.
However, city rules continue to limit indoor church attendance to one person for individual prayer and outdoor attendance increased to 50 socially distanced people from the previously mandated 12-person limit.
Mayor Breed rallied citizens in the news post: "It's on all of us to keep doing our part so that we can get more businesses reopened, get our kids back in school and keep making progress on our economic recovery."
She added: "These businesses have been struggling ... they'll finally be able to serve customers again with the necessary safety precautions and modifications in place," omitting mention of churches.
"Given our local trend in COVID indicators, low-risk, limited-capacity indoor activities may resume," the public health official said. "We will continue our gradual reopening as it allows us to monitor the spread, manage its immediate challenges and mitigate the long-term impact on our city."
Observers noted a political motive in the announcement. One tweet read, "San Francisco will now allow salons to reopen. Just after Nancy Pelosi got caught [using a salon during shutdown that was closed to the public]. This proves many shutdowns were straight-up political!"
In his Aug. 31 statement to the city, the archbishop made a most forceful argument for the immediate loosening of strictures on churches based on evidence of zero contagion.
"[T]hree major infectious disease specialists recently pointed out, over 1 million public [M]asses have been celebrated following guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus,'" he wrote, and "for Catholic churches following these guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance."
"One million public Masses without any COVID outbreaks demonstrates that it is just as safe [to gather] in San Francisco as in other parts of the state, such as San Mateo County, to permit large gatherings for outdoor public worship with reasonable safety precautions," he emphasized.
Church Militant contacted the mayor for comment but received no reply.