Chicago's Catholic Churches Open After Closing Amid Pandemic

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Catholic churches in Chicago that reopened this past weekend for in-person services after having been closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to increase capacity this week.

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued new guidance for reopening churches late last week that limited attendance to 15% capacity with a maximum of 50 guests, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Seating can increase to 20% of a church’s capacity this week.

Consuelo Sierra, who attends Sacred Heart Croatian Parish in South Deering, had been tuning in to YouTube to hear Rev. Stephen Bedenikovic each week after the church closed due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order in March. The church still didn't open after a revised stay-at-home order in April allowed up to 10 people to gather for religious services.

“I feel like I’m picking back up where I left off,” said Sierra, who returned to church Sunday. “I feel back at home.”

Every other pew was blocked off at Sacred Heart Croatian, and about 20 worshipers sat in open rows.

“It’s a troubled world,” Bedenikovic told congregants Sunday. “We were locked out for a few months, and no one has ever experienced anything like this ... There’s fear, uncertainty, people are afraid to talk to one another, get close to one another.”

Catholic parishes are required to adhere to social distancing directives, sanitize regularly and keep attendance records for contact tracing in case someone tests positive for coronavirus. Still, the elderly and those with preexisting conditions have been urged to stay home.

Pritzker issued new guidance last month after facing mounting legal challenges and defiant churches. He suggested that houses of worship should gather at a quarter capacity and recommends “discontinuing singing, group recitation and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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