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Governor Abbott: "It is now time to open Texas 100%."
As Texas relaxes pandemic restrictions, only one of its 15 bishops is following suit. Tyler's Bp. Joseph Strickland alone is loosening restrictions on worship and church life.
Bishop Strickland: "The Lord is in our midst. Be not afraid."
While Texas drops the mask mandate, most of its Catholic bishops are deciding to keep their pandemic protocols in place. These include a mask mandate, social distancing in pews, 25% capacity, and, with some parishes, Communion in the hand only. For practicing Catholics, the most significant COVID-era change has been the dispensation of their Sunday Mass obligation.
Bishop Strickland: "Repent and believe in the gospel."
Bishop Strickland, however, has reinstated this obligation. He has also reauthorized holy water in fonts, missalettes in pews, and church social activities to resume. As for masks, Strickland encourages people to follow CDC guidelines; but an encouragement is not a mandate.
Bishop Strickland: "We will allow you to be fed by the Body of Christ, again."
While many bishops around the country are keeping their restrictions in place, others are expressing concern for the spiritual health of the flock. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, for example, is concerned about the pandemic restrictions' long-term spiritual effects.
Archbishop Cordileone: "It's difficult, I'm hearing, with many of the priests. They don't have the opportunity to physically gather with their people."
He professed that, as a sacramental Church, it is the very nature and identity of Catholics to physically gather together in the Eucharist. Most bishops, nonetheless, continue to implement establishment guidelines of the civil government.
Fr. Kevin Nadolski: "The CDC for example, or the Pennsylvania State of Health here in our state, encourages mask-wearing, and we're going to do it."
Bishops like Strickland in Texas discern that the balance of acquiring spiritual maladies outweighs the possibility of contracting physical ones.