Parish Opening for
August 7, 2020
Parishes Opening for Public Worship
I am pleased to share with you that as of August 7th the majority of our parishes have the option to open once again for limited public worship. As this situation is evolving each community must understand that these protocols can evolve as this public health crisis evolves. The following points are especially significant in this goal as we move forward:
Parishes located on lands associated with Native American Nations will follow the public health protocols and directives of their proper Tribal Government. Also, the parishes located in Yuma County and Santa Cruz County are delayed until August 21st, at the earliest, for the option of reopening. As of July 28, 2020, the Covid-19 positivity rate for much of southern Arizona is under ten percent. However, the positivity rate in Yuma County is 17.5%, and Santa Cruz County is at 25.3%. While a substantial portion of the concentrations of Coronavirus can be attributed to area nursing homes, detention centers and prisons, the virus in the general population of these counties cannot be entirely discounted. In Yuma County, for instance, the Arizona Health Department lists “workplace exposure” as the #1 cause of infection. Parishes in these locations remain free to distribute Holy Communion outdoors to their parishioners or to celebrate outdoor Masses, as is currently permitted. It is my great hope that after an additional delay of two to three weeks these communities can safely offer indoor celebrations as well.
The risks associated with public gatherings have not decreased and the formal Dispensation from participating in Sunday Mass in person remains in place for all persons living in or visiting the Diocese of Tucson. To state the obvious, we do not have a working vaccine or perfect method of treatment for Covid-19. It is my recommen-dation that the faithful remain at home until this situation is somewhat safer. I urge the faithful to commit daily to a time of prayer but most especially on Sundays. I also strongly encourage the reception of Holy Communion outdoors at your parish after prayerfully observing a Mass on television or the internet. While this public health situation remains troubling I must recall that our original motivation to cease public indoor gatherings was the extraordinarily high patient census in our hospitals, especially Intensive Care Units. That situation has improved. As of July 28th, hospitalization rates due to Covid-19 for Arizona have dropped 37% from their peak on July 13th. As our hospitals are reporting greater capacity, and I anticipate that only a small portion of our Catholic population will return for public Masses at this time, I conclude that limited indoor public Masses have once again become a possibility for much of our Diocese.
No parish in the approved areas of our Diocese is required to reopen for public indoor Masses. The decision to reopen resides with the parish Pastor (or parish Administrator), in consultation with his local advisors. I urge pastors, whether open for public indoor Masses or not, to provide times for the faithful to come in person and receive Holy Communion outdoors. I also urge that those identified in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines as highly at risk to refrain from in-person participation at Masses. This includes persons with chronic health conditions as well as persons age 65 and older.
For those parishes that elect to open, they must return to those protocols observed just prior to the recent suspension of public indoor Masses. Pastors are to review the protocols previously approved by my delegate for this purpose, Msgr. Al Schifano. This applies to Mass, other Sacraments (including Confession), parish meetings, celebrations, etc. There may be no adaptation or variance from the approved prior protocols with the exception of the protocols listed immediately below.
Pastors are reminded that they may celebrate Masses beginning on Fridays and continuing through Mondays—with those Masses always making use of the Sunday Mass prayers and Scripture readings. Holy Communion may never be given indoors; it is to be given to the faithful only outdoors, even for those who have attended a Mass in person, and only provided in the hand. Receiving Holy Communion after Mass is over and upon exiting the Church is a way that those who attended Mass in person can be in solidarity with the Community who has observed a Mass by technology and may then be coming to receive Holy Communion at the same time. Any prior permission to distribute Holy Communion indoors is hereby revoked.
The use of a mask is to protect others and also shows great respect and concern for our priests. It is clearly a pro-life issue. While already listed in approved protocols I wish to remind everyone that face masks are a firm requirement for all persons age six and older. Parishioners with a health condition making it impossible for them to make use of a mask are to contact their parish office ahead of time to verify the health condition with their pastor. There are no other exceptions to this protocol.
I believe that substantial strides are being made in the creation of vaccines as well as better treatments. However, as noted above, the reopening of our parishes for limited indoor public Masses should not signal a lessening of caution or even an encouragement to attend Mass in person at this time. Indeed, as both faithful Catholics and faithful citizens, I urge the faithful to set a good example for the public. The aggressive observance of our protocols gives witness to our love of neighbor, appreciation for those who minister to us, and concern for the most vulnerable of our communities.
Lastly, I once again urge the faithful to enter into a true spirit of prayer, asking Our Lord and His Blessed Mother to intervene quickly, bringing us the vaccine and better medical treatments we need in order to celebrate our faith with far fewer constraints. I also ask for prayers for the sick, as well as for healthcare workers and first-responders. They are powerful witnesses to the love of neighbor.
May God bless you abundantly,
+Edward J. Weisenburger
Bishop of Tucson
July 29, 2020
Statement of Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger on the Suspension of Masses beginning July 1, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I wish to inform you that after a careful review of the medical situation, and hearing the recent concerns of our Governor and civic leaders on television, I have been advised by Diocesan leadership to suspend public worship. I agree with their recommendation and the suspension of public worship is effective as of today, July 1st, 2020. This returns us temporarily to those protocols we were following just prior to the reopening of our parishes. You should anticipate a suspension of approximately four weeks but the matter will be reviewed daily and the suspension could be for a shorter or longer duration.
Those who follow national news are aware that the State of Arizona has been referenced across the nation for our substantial spike in Covid-19 cases. When the pandemic began I stressed that a primary factor on reopening would be the ability of our hospitals and medical personnel to respond adequately to the sick. Members of the medical community—who daily place themselves at great risk to serve us—are now telling us that we are at a crisis point. I believe that we owe it these noble men and women to do our part in bringing the pandemic under control.
For now let us be committed to journeying in solidarity with the sick, the suffering, the unemployed, the frightened, and the healthcare workers who must daily face this pandemic without flinching. Join with your local parish for televised or internet Masses, or log onto the Diocese of Tucson web page and join me for daily Mass. The protocols we instituted for our parishes at the time of our reopening were sensible, thorough, and implemented with care and sensitivity. When we are able to open up once again these protocols will be reinstated. But for now, where it is safe, pastors will arrange for an outdoor distribution of Holy Communion after members of the faithful have observed a Mass via technology. Confessions will be heard only out-of-doors. The only public Masses will be funerals and weddings, and with a limit of ten persons in the congregation.
I wish to express my deep gratitude for the clergy and parish ministers who have responded so very well throughout the pandemic. They are extraordinary men and women and their fidelity to you and intense desire to be of service is a witness to the grace of their vocation.
Let us pray that this suspension is brief and that we can soon be in one another’s company. Let us also be unified in our resolve to lead the way in battling this pandemic. The witness and example of our lives and the intensity of our prayers will surely help to heal the world.
May God bless you abundantly,
+Edward J. Weisenburger
July 1, 2020
Statement of Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger on the Rise in Covid-19 Cases
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I know we’re all anxious to be back in our parishes but the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths has unexpectedly increased in Arizona. I very strongly encourage all those in the CDC vulnerable categories [especially those age 65+ or with a chronic health condition] to remain at home and let the Church come to you via technology. Just a few more weeks might make all the difference.
The Church loves you and wants you to be safe. God bless you!
+Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of Tucson
June 9, 2020
Statement of Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger on the Killing of Mr. George Floyd
I join with Bishops across our nation in denouncing racism and the violence it engenders.
The killing of Mr. George Floyd is an image that remains deeply etched in the minds of all Americans. I pray that this horrific image will lead to our reexamination of the lingering presence of racism in our culture and become a call to action for all of us to work for deep and lasting change.
I have prayed at Mass for Mr. Floyd by name. It is my prayer that God will raise him up to eternal life, even as God raises up a host of voices that cry out for justice and dignity for every human being and an end to violence in our communities.
+Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of Tucson
June 2, 2020