Bishop Douglas Deshotel has recorded a video message for members of the Diocese of Lafayette, and the message is that the churches will re-open when it is safe to do so.
He encouraged those who are at risk for whatever reason to continue to stay home. The re-opening will be gradual, and only after civil and medical authorities say it is safe to do so, he said. He knows that is not easy to hear, he said.
"I know it has been difficult for all you to be without public celebration of the Eucharist. It has been necessary to halt the rapid spread of the virus that has brought so much suffering," he said. "All of the priests who serve in our parishes have been working hard to provide the spiritual nourishment that you desire while at the same time ensuring the safety of all, through livestreamed Masses and Rosaries and drive-through confessions, and we are grateful for their dedication."
When civil and medical officials authorize Phase I re-opening, there are several ways things will change to protect the health of church members and priests. The churches will adhere to the Phase I rule that limits occupancy of buildings to 25 percent; social distancing will be required during Mass, and hymnals and other books will be removed, he said.
"The dispensation from the Sunday Mass Obligation is extended to all for the time being. After public Masses resume, I will allow your attendance at a weekday Mass to fulfill your Sunday Mass devotion. This will lessen the crowd on Sunday. If you are vulnerable because of age, 65 or older, or previous medical condition, you should stay home until the pandemic has subsided and your dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue," Deshotel says.
Inside the church, things will be different during Mass, as well.
"When it is safe and the OK is given we will begin celebrating public Masses. This process will be gradual. At the direction of health officials, 25% of the occupancy rate, or the maximum seating capacity of your parish Church will be allowed in the Church. This means that when that number has been reached others will be invited to come to another Mass," he said. "Those in the Church will be spaced six feet apart and in every other pew. They will also be asked to space six feet apart in the Holy Communion line. All will be encouraged to wear face masks and sanitize their hands before and after Mass. Until the danger has passed, I am directing that if you receive Holy Communion, you receive it in the hand as a precaution. The Church will be sanitized after each Mass and missalettes and hymnals will be removed from the pews to avoid contamination."
Here's the Bishop's video: