The Archdiocese of Chicago is encouraging all Catholics to abide by the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order, and Cardinal Blase Cupich is laying out a phased plan for the reopening of churches as the pandemic continues.
According to the phased plan, each parish would need to recruit what it calls “non-vulnerable” volunteers at the parish level to aid pastors in implementing the parameters of the new plan. Volunteers will be trained via webinar by the Archdiocese, and the training is expected to begin next week.
The plan also calls for parishes to be certified, allowing them to move to the next phase of the Archdiocese’s plan.
Phase I of the plan, which could be implemented by May 23 if trainings go on as scheduled, would allow parishes to reopen for baptisms, weddings, reconciliation, and funerals, with a limit of 10 attendees.
Phase IA, which could begin as soon as May 30 according to the Archdiocese, would allow parishes to reopen for private prayer and adoration, with a limit of 10 attendees.
The 10 attendee limit does not include ministers and staff, according to the Archdiocese.
Phase II would allow for the reopening of churches for weekday and weekend Masses for larger groups, and would be dependent on state and federal guidelines on capacity limits for buildings.
Under the state of Illinois’ current plan, Phase 3 of reopening will allow groups of 10 or fewer individuals to gather. Under Phase 4, that number jumps to 50 or fewer, and the phase could begin as soon as late June, according to the “Restore Illinois” plan.
Cupich said that he supports the ongoing restrictions that the state has implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There have been moments in history when governments and rulers have persecuted Christians and banned their public worship. This is not one of them,” he said. “Rather, the present restrictions come in response to an extreme medical emergency as local, state and federal authorities legitimately fulfill their responsibilities to safeguard human life and the common good.
“They have based their reasonable guidance on careful consideration of empirical data and the best available disease-mitigation practices as they seek to contain the pandemic’s rampage through our communities,” he added.
While other churches have threatened to reopen in defiance of the ongoing stay-at-home order, Cupich encouraged all Catholics to abide by the orders, which prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people, even for religious institutions.
“This is, at its heart, a moment to proclaim the breadth and depth of what it means to be pro-life, particularly as this virus preys on the most vulnerable in our midst,” he said. “I call on the Catholic faithful, as advocates for justice and charity, to comply with these regulations.”
While churches have been closed, masses have been livestreamed from parishes and the archdiocese. Several Chicago area television stations have also aired mass on Sundays.
More details on the parameters of the plan are available on the Archdiocese website.